Diagnosing Brain Injury

It’s important that anyone who is suspected of having sustained a traumatic brain injury seek medical attention immediately. Those who are in serious accidents and taken to the emergency room will be stabilized by the medical team before potential damage to the brain can be assessed. Those with less obvious injuries, however, may be tempted to “wait and see.” It’s very important if you or a loved one are exhibiting signs and symptoms of a traumatic brain injury that your are seen by a doctor as soon as possible. The sooner brain injury is diagnosed the sooner it can be treated. And the sooner it is treated, the better chance you have of reducing long-term effects.
How is brain injury diagnosed? A conscious patient will undergo a battery of tests to determine cognitive abilities. The doctor will most likely start out with a general examination that includes questions to assess how the patient’s brain is functioning. If the patient’s brain seems to be functioning normally, and there are no additional complications, the individual will most likely be sent home with instructions on things to watch for.
If the doctor suspects, after running initial tests, that a brain injury has occurred, he or she may order tests that show the interior of the brain, such as a CT scan or an MRI. These tests can show the location and the severity of the injury.
When all is said and done, the doctor will classify the head injury as closed (meaning it occurred to the skull) or open (meaning penetration of the skull into the brain occurred). The injury will also be described as focal, which means that it occurred in one part of the brain, or diffuse, which means that it occurred throughout the brain. Tests can show whether contusion or hematoma has occurred, as well as whether there is intracranial pressure.
Specialists look at all of this information to diagnose the type and severity of the brain injury, as well as to hypothesize a prognosis. Diagnosis of the brain injury is important, in order for the correct therapies and treatments to be prescribed. Early diagnosis is key, as brain injuries that are not properly treated can cause further damage in addition to that caused by the initial injury.

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