Common Tests That Doctors Use to Diagnose and Treat Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic Brain Injury Signs and SymptomsA traumatic brain injury (TBI) can happen to anyone. Even what seems to be a minor bump to the head in a car accident can result in catastrophic health consequences for weeks or years to come—or even for a lifetime. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2013, about 2.8 million people visited the emergency room for traumatic brain injuries, and TBIs contributed to the deaths of nearly 50,000 people that year alone. Brain injuries are serious. Here’s what you need to know about the signs of head injury, and what tests medical providers can use to help diagnose a TBI after your accident.

Potential Signs and Symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury

Diagnosing a traumatic brain injury isn’t always as straightforward as you might think. Not all injuries that can cause a TBI leave wounds that are readily apparent, or even visible at all in many cases. That’s why it’s critical to be examined by trained medical personnel after any accident in which a head injury could have happened, such as a car accident. There are even some signs of a TBI that, to an unqualified observer or a disoriented victim, may not seem to be related to a brain injury at all. Some of the signs of a TBI may include the following:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • A bad taste or a change in ability to smell
  • Light or sound sensitivity
  • Mood swings, anxiety, or depression
  • Clumsiness, paralysis, or lack of coordination

Other, more telling signs may include mental confusion, slowed breathing and pulse rate, a clear fluid leaking from the nose or ears, or unconsciousness. There are many other potential symptoms, so if you suspect a brain injury, get medical help immediately.

Tests Used to Diagnose and Treat a TBI

When you seek medical help after an actual or suspected TBI, medical personnel will perform a number of tests, depending on the severity and the timeframe of the injury. Tests may be for acute diagnosis immediately after the head injury, or to check the status of a TBI victim and determine how well he or she is functioning to determine if further treatment or rehabilitation is necessary. Some of the common tests used after a TBI include the following:

  • The Glasgow Coma Scale is used to gauge the status of a person with a suspected TBI, both immediately after the injury and during follow-up assessment. The GCS provides for rapid assessment of mental status using eye movements and pupil measurements, the ability to speak and respond to verbal commands, and physical reflexes and response to touch. The doctor will assign a GCS score after assessment, typically between three and fifteen. The lowest GCS score of three indicates coma, and the highest indicates normal function, with varying degrees of mild, moderate, or severe TBI in between.
  • CT or CAT scans are a commonly used imaging technique that uses X-rays to take pictures in many thin “slices” that together form a picture of the skull and brain. CT scans are often used to quickly diagnose bleeding or bruised brain tissue and other damage inside the skull. A fast-acting radioactive dye may be injected into the patient during the procedure to help the doctor see certain details.
  • MRI imaging is not usually done immediately after an injury for an emergency diagnosis, but may be done later, or during follow-up examination. MRI imaging takes pictures in thin “slices” like a CT scan, but it uses powerful magnets instead of X-rays.
  • Neuropsychological examination is an examination process carried out by a trained psychologist. This type of testing is often done during the recovery phase, to help determine the degree of long-term injury, what kind of rehabilitation would best treat the TBI, and how well current therapy or rehabilitation is working. Neuropsychological exams include multiple tasks and may involve tests to determine thinking, memory, speech, behavior, personality, and motor skills.

There are other tests that can be performed, including bloodwork and other physical exams, to determine the extent of a head injury. Your doctor can inform you about what he or she thinks is necessary and help you proceed with treatment for your individual case.

Get Legal Help After Your TBI

If you or someone you love has been the victim of a TBI after an accident due to someone else’s carelessness or negligence, you may be eligible for compensation. A personal injury attorney can help you determine whether you’re owed money for medical bills, rehabilitation, lost wages, and more.

When you’re ready to speak to an experienced South Carolina traumatic brain injury attorney, the Law Office of Kenneth E. Berger is here for you. Reach out to us by telephone, or use our contact form to arrange a consultation to speak about your legal situation today. Although we are based out of Columbia, we've represented victims from many parts of South Carolina, including Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and Lexington. 


Kenneth Berger
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Columbia, South Carolina car accident and personal injury attorney dedicated to securing justice for clients