Traumatic Brain Injury Diagnosis

The damage done by traumatic brain injury must be quickly assessed so treatment can begin as soon as possible to try and limit the degree of impairment.

Important questions to address right after a person is injured include:

  • How did the injury happen?
  • Did the injured person black out?
  • How long was he or she unconscious?
  • Where was the head or other areas of the body struck?
  • What information exists about the force of the injury?
  • Were the body and head severely impacted?

The Glasgow Coma Scale
This scale rates a person’s degree of consciousness from numbers three to 15. The higher the score, the less brain damage has been done. Three responses are judged in adults:

  • Eye opening response
  • Verbal response
  • Motor response

The total score for each of the three parameters is added to arrive at a final score. The highest degree of function is a score of 15. For example, a total score of between three and eight usually means a person is in a coma. An eye opening response can range from four points, given for a person who opens the eyes spontaneously, to one point, assigned to someone with no response.

When determining the verbal response score, the highest is five points when the person is oriented. Four points are given for confused conversation, but being able to answer questions. Three points are earned for giving inappropriate responses, but words are discernable. Two points are given for incomprehensible speech, and one point is given for no verbal response.

Motor responses are judged on:

  • Whether the person obeys a command to move
  • If the person makes a purposeful movement to painful stimulus
  • If the injured person simply withdraws from pain
  • If and how the person responds to tests of reflexes
  • No responses

Other ways to determine the extent of someone’s brain injury include performing imaging tests. These are:

  • CT (computerized tomography) scans to show thin cross-sections of the brain to reveal fractures, bleeding in the brain, blood clots, bruises in the brain and swelling of brain tissue
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) takes too long to process for an immediate assessment, but are used once the patient is stable to visualize cross-sectional or three dimensional images of the brain

Doctors can measure the amount of pressure that has built up in the brain using an intracranial pressure monitor.

The purpose of all tests done right after a person sustains a brain injury is to assess the extent and location of the damage as soon as possible so treatment can begin.

If you or a loved one has suffered a serious brain injury, contact a traumatic brain injury attorney to find out if you qualify for financial compensation.