Pediatric Brain Injury Program
In 1989, the Pediatric Brain Injury Program at Hennepin Healthcare was created to provide a coordinated approach to children and adolescents with brain injuries. Today, this team is as active as ever, providing exceptional care to children from all over the state who are admitted to our Level I Pediatric Trauma Center, or who are being seen as an outpatient in one of our clinics. The Pediatric Brain Injury Program is part of a full range of state-of-the-art medical and rehabilitative services offered by Hennepin Healthcare’s Traumatic Brain Injury Center.
Children with brain injuries have needs that can be very different from those of adults with brain injuries. This is why these patients are treated by staff trained specifically to work with pediatric patients. The Pediatric Brain Injury Program uses a coordinated, team-based approach which begins when a child is admitted into the program. Team members evaluate patients to identify problems with cognitive, behavioral, or physical functioning; and provide treatment to help each child reach his or her maximum potential, all while providing family education and support along the way.
The Pediatric Brain Injury Program uses a coordinated, team-based approach. Depending on the child’s needs, specialists from various disciplines on the team contribute to the child’s care. Members of the team include:
- Pediatric doctor
- Pediatric nurse
- Pediatric neurologist
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Speech-language pathology
- Child psychology
- Social worker / Pediatric Brain Injury Program Coordinator
- Child life specialist
- The patient and family
What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?
A Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) occurs when impact to the head or body causes the brain to be injured inside the skull. Many TBIs are mild, involving a disruption in normal functioning and a brief period of altered consciousness (disorientation, confusion, inability to follow simple commands) or a brief loss of consciousness. A mild TBI is also known as a concussion.
A more severe injury (moderate to severe TBI) may involve a prolonged loss of consciousness or coma, bleeding in the brain, and nerve cell damage. Recovery from a severe TBI can be lengthy and patients may or may not return to their previous level of functioning.
Each individual’s recovery from a TBI is unique and requires individual attention and care. The range of symptoms depends on the type and severity of the injury, and how the individual is responding to the injury.
Sometimes, individuals sustain a different type of brain injury that is not traumatic in nature. This could be from an illness or disease process, an event that causes a lack of oxygen to the brain, or something like a tumor. Our Pediatric Brain Injury Program follows children and adolescents with these other types of acquired brain injuries as well.
The Pediatric Brain Injury Program's continuum of care provides for ongoing services for children admitted to Hennepin Healthcare's Level I Pediatric Trauma Center with a diagnosis of acquired brain injury, which includes traumatic brain injury, stroke, anoxic brain injury and abusive head trauma. Severity ranges from a minor injury, which may involve only a short overnight stay, to the severely injured who may require a lengthy stay in critical care for many weeks with intensive rehabilitation therapy services.
Our program also offers outpatient services for those who have been hospitalized here following an injury, as well as those that are referred to us from other providers or even their parents. Our program follows children and adolescents shortly after an injury or even years later.
Children age 12 and younger are seen by a pediatric neurologist in our Pediatric Brain Injury Clinic.
Adolescents age 13 and older are seen by a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation provider in our Traumatic Brain Injury Outpatient Program.
Return to Learn
An important part of a child’s recovery is a successful return to school. This isn’t always easy though as brain injuries often have a significant impact on a child’s academic performance. Even mild injuries with temporary effects require careful planning for a smooth transition back to learning. This is why an important part of our program is dedicated to helping students return to learn following a brain injury. While hospitalized, children receive individualized recommendations regarding returning to school after their injury. As outpatients, this is also an important focus of therapy.
Helping educators understand the injury and how the student’s needs may be different is another important part of our program. We often connect with a child’s school to provide education with the goal of a smooth transition back to learning. We have created a useful tool, Return to Learn: A Guide for School Success Following a Traumatic Brain Injury, and have shared it with many educators in addition to patients. This pamphlet is full of information to help schools, students, and families create a successful return to learn after an injury.
Any conversation about brain injury is not complete without a discussion on prevention. From helmet safety to proper safety restraints in vehicles to following the rules of play; prevention is key. We are fortunate as a Level 1 Trauma Center to have a trauma prevention program and specialist under our roof. Visit Hennepin Healthcare's Trauma Prevention page to learn about other ways you can prevent traumatic brain injury, and other injuries as well.
Members of the Pediatric Brain Injury Team are also available to provide outreach education to professionals at schools and conferences. Please contact the program coordinator for more information or to make a request, at 612-873-2259.
Information and Referrals
To learn more about the Pediatric Brain Injury Program, call the Pediatric Brain Injury Program Coordinator at 612-873-2259.
If you are a provider or a family member and wish to refer a patient, please call 612-873-6663.