Growing Into Childhood Brain Trauma Deficits

Pediatric brain injuries have lasting effects but trauma does not worsen over time

(RxWiki News) When children suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI), such as from a fall or car accident, it can have long-term effects on their cognition, language and motor skills, behavior and social interactions. But such brain trauma does not appear to worsen over time, as has long been thought.

Contrary to a long-held medical view that a child's development after a TBI gets worse over time, a recent Australian study shows that in fact, such children often stabilize and make developmental gains.

"Kids can recover and improve after brain injury."

Professor Vicki Anderson of the Murdoch Children's Research Institute was the lead researcher in a study that examined 53 children, ten years after they experienced traumatic brain injury. The children had suffered a TBI between the ages of two and seven years old.

Researchers studied the social and behavioral skills of these children a decade after their injury. They found that during the first three years after injury, while the brain was coping with the impact of the injury, the children had the poorest outcomes and did not make any developmental gains.

But after those first three years, the gap between the brain-injured children and their peers began to stabilize, and they started to make age-appropriate developmental gains that lasted right up through 10 years post-injury.

Anderson said that these results are important because it casts doubt on the current viewpoint regarding TBI recovery and shows that children do not get further behind their peers.

"There is a clinical view that young children who suffer a brain injury get worse as time goes on, and that the severity of the head injury, dictates the outcome. But in fact, what we found was this wasn't the case," Anderson said.

She added that although the study doesn't suggest TBI children catch up to their peers, it does question the "grow into deficits" speculation and implies that intervention may be effective, even years after brain injury.

The findings were published in the January 2012 issue of Pediatrics

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Review Date: 
January 31, 2012