When someone in South Carolina suffers a brain injury - be it from a fall, car crash, or object striking them in the head - they are often told it is only a concussion, and that their symptoms should clear up in a couple weeks. In many instances, negative results on a CT scan or basic MRI lead a neurologist to discharge the patient, even though "subjective complaints" persist.
What are "subjective complaints?" They are the list of problems someone with a head injury is complaining of despite the "normal" test results. For instance, you may have trouble concentrating, controlling your temper, remembering events surrounding the accident, or keeping your balance in the dark. You tell the doctor about these issues, but he responds that you are simply experiencing post-concussive syndrome and should be fine in no less than a couple months. When you return to his office a few months later with many of the same issues, he focuses on the areas of improvement rather than your symptoms. Additionally, he reminds you that your CT, MRI, and maybe even EEG all came back normal, and that you should focus on getting well rather than worrying over problems that should have already resolved. Some doctors might even note that your issues are largely psychosomatic.
When doctors dismiss TBI patients' complaints without further investigating the cause of the problems, they are doing patients and families a disservice. Negative MRIs and CT scans do not prove the absence of a brain injury. When patients remain symptomatic, there are stronger, better, and more advanced tests that can be performed. For instance, there is more than one type of MRI. There are also PET scans and other tests that reveal whether a patient has sustained damage to the axons (i.e. the brain's power lines). These advanced images can provide "objective medical evidence" of a TBI, which in turn lets patients know why they are experiencing problems. Likewise, objective medical evidence goes a long way toward helping family members understand the reasons their loved one has struggled since the accident.
No one wants to suffer head trauma in an accident; nor do they want to be told "everything looks fine" when they know they are anything but fine. Brain injuries do not have to be the medical equivalent to the dark side of the moon in South Carolina. As doctors become more willing to treat TBIs with the respect and attention they demand, I believe we will see better testing, better treatment, and better results.
For more information, call my office today at 803-790-2800.