Levels of Care After Injury

The Many Stages of Care Given After Traumatic Brain Injury

Included here is a diagram that showcases the different levels of care given after a traumatic brain injury.

Each patient’s experience will be different and the care they receive will be tailored to their needs. Not all patients will need each treatment option listed. We’ve included a description of the type of patients who are treated on the different phases, as well as the goals that are worked towards for each.

Our resources section provides tools and information that you can use depending on where you are on the road to healing and coping.

Emergency Care and Critical Care

Emergency care is the first medical treatment administered after a traumatic brain injury. Some patients are treated at the scene of their injury; a car accident, a fall in a house, or at a construction site. Others are treated at the Emergency Room in the nearest hospital.

The goal of critical care is to ensure that the patient is stabilized, and to prevent further neurological damage. EMT’s and ER staff make sure that the patient has enough oxygen to the brain, and they reestablish blood pressure to the body and to the brain.

Acute Care

Acute Care is administered to brain injury patients in the hospital, after their initial emergency care is complete. Acute Care is active, short-term treatment for severe brain injury, typically in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit or emergency department. Medical and surgical specialists care for patients in the hospital and work to optimize a person’s medical condition. Diagnostics, surgery, and follow up with coordinating teams helps ensure the stability of the patient. The goal of acute care is to stabilize the condition, and direct the patient to another high dependency unit for further treatment.

Acute Rehabilitation

Acute rehabilitation is for brain injury patients that need ongoing therapies to improve their functional abilities. With the average stay at 3-5 weeks, care is given for at least 3 hours per day and focuses on improving bowel and bladder control, communication, mobility, basic hygiene, orientation, and learning. Rehabilitation is an important component of healing after a brain injury. It is here that patients relearn basic skills for every day living.

Sub-acute Rehabilitation

Sub-acute rehabilitation is a hospital-based or skilled nursing-based program for brain injury patients who are still medically dependent after given acute care, or for those who have complex nursing needs. The average stay is 2 to 3 months, and patients are given 1- 3 hours of therapy per day. The goal is this care is to help each person reach their highest level of functioning, and to help recreate the safest, most active lifestyle possible when they do return home.
Brain injury patients are sent to sub-acute rehabilitation if they need help mastering a particularly difficult task, even if they have met their main goals, and if their muscles are not yet strong enough for more traditional therapies.

Neurobehavioral Unit

Brain injury patients receive treatment at the neurobehavioral unit if they have difficulty controlling behaviors and impulses. This hospital based program is a highly structured environment that focuses on behavior management. This is a highly specialized and intensive rehabilitation services and provides 24-hour supervision.
The goal of this highly specialized treatment is to assist patients in ultimately living independently, and taking care of themselves. It is also important for patients to be able to adapt to a less structured environment in terms of their behavioral and cognitive stability.


The community is a term that signifies where you live whether that be with a family, or in a common location, as well as the group of people that surrounds and supports you. Brain injury patients at this stage begin living at home, while receiving support services from variety of agencies and medical professionals. The goal for patients living in their community is to receive the ongoing support needed to thrive at their greatest possible ability.