How is Traumatic Brain Injury Diagnosed?

How Is Traumatic Brain Injury Diagnosed - Doctor With PenTraumatic brain injury (TBI) is a serious injury that can occur when a sudden blow or jolt to the head causes damage to the brain. TBI can range from mild to severe, and can result in a variety of symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, confusion, memory loss, and difficulty concentrating. So, how is traumatic brain injury diagnosed?

The patient’s medical history, physical examination, and the results of an array of diagnostic tests all play a role in establishing a diagnosis of TBI. Here are a few examples:

Glasgow Coma Scale

The Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) is a widely used tool to assess the level of consciousness in individuals with traumatic brain injuries. It was first developed in 1974 by Graham Teasdale and Bryan Jennett at the University of Glasgow.

The GCS evaluates three components of the person’s response: eye opening, verbal response, and motor response. Each component is assigned a score ranging from either 1 to 6 or 1 to 5. The scores for each component are then added together to give a total score between 3 and 15. A score of 15 represents a fully conscious individual, while a score of 3 indicates a deep coma.

Here is a breakdown of the three GCS components: 

  1. Eye opening: The eye-opening component measures the person’s ability to open their eyes spontaneously, in response to a verbal command, or in response to pain. The scores range from 4 (spontaneous eye opening) to 1 (no eye opening).
  2. Verbal response: The verbal response component evaluates the person’s ability to communicate verbally. The scores range from 5 (oriented and able to converse normally) to 1 (no verbal response).
  3. Motor response: The motor response component assesses the person’s ability to move in response to a stimulus. The scores range from 6 (obeys commands) to 1 (no movement in response to pain).

Overall, a better general level of consciousness is indicated by a higher GCS score, while a poorer general level of consciousness is indicated by a lower GCS score. The GCS is useful for assessing the severity of a TBI and tracking changes in consciousness over time. However, it is important to note that the GCS is just one tool used to assess TBIs and does not provide a comprehensive evaluation of cognitive or neurological function.

Imaging Tests

How Is Traumatic Brain Injury Diagnosed - Brain Scan - Diagnosing Traumatic Brain Injury - TBIImaging tests, such as CT (Computed Tomography) scans or MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), can detect any abnormalities in the brain, such as bleeding or swelling.

Both CT scans and MRI are medical imaging tests used to obtain detailed images of the internal structures of the body, including the brain. However, they employ different technologies and are better suited for different purposes.

CT Scan: A CT scan uses X-rays and computer technology to create cross-sectional images of the body. A CT scan is performed while the patient lies on a table that is moved through a doughnut-shaped machine. The computer generates a 3D representation of the patient’s body from a series of X-ray images taken at various angles. To better highlight specific structures or areas of the body, a contrast dye may be injected into a vein.

CT scans can detect acute bleeding or bone fractures more quickly than MRI scans can. They are less expensive and more broadly accessible than magnetic resonance imaging scans. However, CT scans are less sensitive than MRI scans in detecting soft tissue damage and expose the patient to ionizing radiation, which can increase the risk of cancer.

How Is Traumatic Brain Injury Diagnosed - MRIMRI: An MRI uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the body. The patient undergoes the procedure while lying on a table that moves into a large cylindrical machine. The machine creates a magnetic field that aligns the protons in the person’s body, and radio waves are used to create signals that are then processed by a computer to create detailed images.

When it comes to detecting soft tissue injuries, such brain tissue damage, MRI scans are superior to CT scans. They are also helpful for seeing blood vessels and finding structural abnormalities in the brain. MRI scans are more thorough than CT scans, but they take longer and may not be safe for those who have devices like pacemakers or cochlear implants.

Neurological Exams

The function of the nervous system, including reflexes, muscle strength, coordination, and sensation can be evaluated by conducting a neurological exam.

A neurological exam is typically performed by a neurologist, a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the nervous system. The neurologist will look for signs of neurological damage, such as weakness, numbness, paralysis, difficulty speaking, and changes in vision, hearing, reflexes, or balance.

The neurological exam may include the following tests:

  1. Mental status examination: This test assesses the patient’s level of consciousness, memory, language skills, and ability to think and reason.
  2. Cranial nerve examination: This test evaluates the function of the 12 cranial nerves, which are the nerves that connect the brain to the head and neck.
  3. Motor examination: This test measures the patient’s muscle strength, coordination, and reflexes.
  4. Sensory examination: This test examines the patient’s ability to feel pain, temperature, and touch.
  5. Gait and balance examination: This test assesses the patient’s ability to walk and maintain balance.

Neuropsychological testing

Neuropsychological testing is a series of standardized tests that are administered by a neuropsychologist. The tests assess a wide range of cognitive and behavioral functions, including attention, memory, language, problem-solving, and executive functions.

Additional TBI Diagnostic Tests

  1. How Is Traumatic Brain Injury Diagnosed - Blood TestBalance and vestibular testing: These tests assess the person’s balance and vestibular function, which can be affected by a TBI.
  2. Blood tests: Blood tests can be used to rule out other potential causes of symptoms, such as infections or drug use.

The specific tests used to diagnose TBI will depend on the severity and location of the injury and the individual’s symptoms. It is imperative that they seek medical assistance immediately if there is any suspicion of TBI, as early diagnosis and treatment can improve outcomes.

Get Help from Experienced Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyers

If you or anyone you know has suffered a severe traumatic brain injury, let the brain injury lawyers at Harding Mazzotti, LLP help today. Call our experienced legal professionals for a free consultation at 1-800-LAW-1010. We’re here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.