What Is the Long-Term Cost of Treating a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Published on Apr 30, 2024 at 3:06 pm in Traumatic Brain Injury.


Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) can have profound and enduring impacts, not only on the individual’s health but also on their finances and quality of life.

Understanding the long-term costs associated with treating a TBI and the types of care needed after a brain injury is crucial for individuals, families, healthcare providers, and policymakers alike. In this article, we’ll delve into the various factors that contribute to the overall expense of managing a TBI over time.

Initial Costs of Treating a Traumatic Brain Injury

The journey of treating TBI often begins with emergency medical care, hospitalization, and intensive care unit (ICU) stays. These initial stages involve a significant financial investment due to the complexity of TBI treatment factors, including neuroimaging, surgery, and monitoring.

Rehabilitation services such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy are also essential components of the initial treatment phase.

According to a 2019 journal article published by PLOS One, inpatient hospital costs for TBI patients can range anywhere from $2,130 to $401,808, with the average per-patient cost at around $87,634.

Ongoing Medical Expenses

Following the acute phase of treatment, individuals with a TBI often require ongoing medical care to manage their condition and optimize their recovery. This may include regular visits to neurologists, neuropsychologists, and other specialists.

Additionally, medications to manage symptoms such as seizures, pain, and cognitive impairments can contribute to long-term medical expenses.

A CDC study (2016) in the Journal of Medical Care estimated the total annual healthcare cost of nonfatal TBIs was over $40.6 billion. That included:

  • $10.1 billion by private insurance
  • $22.5 billion by Medicare
  • $8 billion by Medicaid

Rehabilitation and Therapy Costs

As we’ve seen, rehabilitation and therapy services can be costly, particularly if they are required over an extended period. These costs may include inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation programs, assistive devices, and home modifications to accommodate functional limitations.

Rehabilitation is a cornerstone of TBI management, aimed at helping individuals regain lost skills, maximize independence, and improve their quality of life. Unfortunately, “how long” rehabilitation and treatment are going to last is based on the individual circumstances of each case.

As a John Hopkins Medical Center article “Rehabilitation After Traumatic Brain Injury” states:

“How long your rehab lasts and how much follow-up care you will need afterward depends on how severe your brain damage was and how well you respond to therapy. Some people may be able to return to the same level of ability they had before TBI. Others need lifetime care. Some long-term effects of TBI can show up years later. You may be at higher risk long-term for problems such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other forms of dementia.”

Long-Term Care and Support Services

In cases where individuals with TBIs require long-term care and support, either due to severe impairments or complications arising from the injury, the costs can be substantial.

This may include expenses related to assisted living facilities, skilled nursing care, or in-home caregivers.

Staying in an assisted-living facility can cost an average of $4,300 a month, with units specializing in memory care running 30% to 50% more. According to a study published in the National Health Statistics Reports, more than half of TBI patients received inpatient physical therapy in 2013, which can also significantly increase these expenses.

Planning for these ongoing care needs is essential to ensure access to quality care without imposing undue financial burden on the individual or their family.

Legal and Administrative Expenses

Navigating the complexities of TBI treatment and rehabilitation often involves dealing with insurance claims, disability benefits, and legal considerations, making the help of an experienced brain injury lawyer a vital consideration.

Legal fees associated with pursuing compensation for the injury, advocating for disability rights, or resolving disputes with insurance companies can add to the overall cost burden for individuals and their families.

Lost Income and Reduced Earning Capacity

For many individuals with TBIs, returning to work or maintaining employment can be challenging due to cognitive, physical, or psychological impairments.

This can result in significant financial strain due to lost income and reduced earning capacity over the long term. Additionally, caregivers may need to reduce their work hours or leave their jobs entirely to provide care and support, further impacting household finances.

Psychological and Social Costs

The impact of a TBI extends beyond the physical and financial realms, often affecting an individual’s psychological well-being and social functioning. Mental health services such as counseling and therapy may be necessary to address depression, anxiety, and other psychological consequences of TBI.

Social support networks and community resources play a vital role in promoting recovery and adjustment to life with a TBI but may also incur associated costs.

A study titled “The Steep Cost of Brain Injury Recovery” by Northwestern University reports that “The lifetime costs of a patient’s treatment for a traumatic brain injury are estimated to run from $85,000 to $3 million.”

Strategies for Mitigating Long-Term Costs

While the long-term costs of treating a TBI can be daunting, there are strategies to help mitigate financial strain and optimize resources.

Early intervention, comprehensive rehabilitation, and proactive management of medical and psychosocial needs can improve outcomes and reduce long-term expenses. Exploring financial assistance programs, disability benefits, and legal avenues for compensation can provide much-needed support, as well.

The long-term cost of treating a traumatic brain injury encompasses a wide range of factors. This includes (but is not limited to) medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, lost income, psychological and social costs, long-term care needs, and legal considerations.

By understanding these challenges and implementing proactive strategies, individuals, families, healthcare providers, and policymakers can work together to mitigate the financial burden and improve outcomes for those affected by TBIs.

If you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury and are facing long-term expenses, one of our experienced personal injury lawyers here at Pittman, Roberts & Welsh, PLLC, is ready to answer your questions and help you seek justice and fair compensation for your losses and on-going expenses.

Free Consultations


Call us or fill out the form below to tell us about your potential case and a personal injury lawyer will get back to you as quickly as possible.