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Brain Injuries


What is a brain injury?

A brain injury occurs when there is a disruption of the nerves or signals in the brain. This can happen in a variety of ways; some examples are:

  • Trauma (ex. motor vehicle accident or sports injury)
  • Stroke
  • Lack of oxygen or blood flow (ex. cardiac arrest or drowning)
  • Tumor
  • Infection
  • Inflammation (ex. encephalitis)
  • Neurologic disorder (ex. multiple sclerosis)

What happens to your body after brain injury?

The brain is a complex organ that controls most of what we do in our daily lives. Any injury to the brain may lead to difficulty completing daily activities. You might see:

  • Difficulty talking or communicating
  • Problems with thinking, awareness, or memory
  • Paralysis (weakness or inability to move certain muscles)
  • Sensory deficits (decreased or absent sensation in certain areas)
  • Difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Difficulty regulating body functions (such as heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature)

How is brain injury treated?

Each child with a brain injury may look very different. This depends on many factors, including age, type of injury, and severity of injury. Right after injury, an individualized plan for rehabilitation is created. For a mild or moderate brain injury, your child may be referred to outpatient therapy programs. For a more severe brain injury, your child may require inpatient rehabilitation for more intensive services.

Some components of brain injury treatment include:

  • Physical therapy for strengthening, early mobility, and vestibular treatment
  • Occupational therapy for strengthening, feeding, vision, activities of daily living, and self-care
  • Speech therapy for communication and cognition
  • Neuropsychology for cognition, education, coping, and adjustment
  • Medical management of feeding, pain, muscle tightness, agitation, arousal, and autonomic dysfunction (sometimes called “storming”)
  • Nutritional support to maximize healing and recovery
  • Social work involvement for resources in the community, assistance with funding/insurance, and family support

Brain Injury programs at Children’s Mercy

Inpatient Rehabilitation Program

Depending on the severity of brain injury and the changes to a child’s function, inpatient rehabilitation may be recommended for your child. The inpatient rehabilitation program provides intensive therapy and medical services after an acute brain injury. Our program is individualized to meet each child/adolescent’s and family’s needs with a focus on recovery and overall well-being. The team works with each child/adolescent and family to develop goals and a comprehensive plan for rehabilitation.

Patients participate in at least three hours of intensive therapies each day, five days per week with an additional half day on Saturdays. Our experienced medical team manages the changes in the body’s function and provides education with a patient- and family-centered approach. While admitted, your child will have access to pediatric medical specialties and diagnostic testing for a thorough assessment and comprehensive care plan.

Your child’s progress will be tracked weekly using the WeeFIM and other age-appropriate functional measures. These tools help measure improvements and help establish areas for continued focus. Scores are also obtained after discharge to ensure your child continues to progress to his or her full potential.

Our therapists are educated and trained in brain injury and pediatrics. Specialty therapy services may include:

  • Functional electrical stimulation bike
  • Heated, zero-entry therapy pool
  • Tobii® eye gaze system for communication and environmental access
  • Dynavision® for vision training
  • Partial body-weight supported treadmill training
  • Equipment evaluation, including bracing, bathing equipment, and mobility equipment
  • Pet therapy

Learn more information about the Inpatient Rehabilitation Program at Children's Mercy.

Outpatient Clinics

We treat children with mild to severe brain injuries as outpatients. Your child may be referred to:

  • Inpatient Follow-up Clinic: multi-disciplinary clinic involving Rehab Medicine, PT, OT, Speech, Neuropsychology, and Social Work. This clinic is to ensure a smooth transition to outpatient therapies and home as well as to monitor functional progress since discharge.
  • Mild TBI/Concussion Clinic
  • General Rehab Clinic
  • Physical and Occupational Therapy (including aquatic therapy and functional electrical stimulation)
  • Speech-language Pathology
  • Other pediatric medical subspecialty clinics, such as Neurosurgery

For more information, please call us at: (816) 234-3970.