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Typical Medical Tests for Brain Injuries After Car, Motorcycle, Trucking, or Work Accidents

Traumatic brain injuries (or TBI) pose a grave health threat to Americans.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), in 2014 alone, TBIs:

  • Contributed to over 56,800 deaths, including 2,529 children
  • Caused over 288,000 hospitalizations
  • Created over 2.4 million emergency room visits

The same report notes traffic crashes are the second-leading cause of TBI hospitalizations.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reports every brain injury is unique. They vary in degree from mild to severe. Victims can display a range of signs and symptoms.

Brain injuries result from  car, motorcycle, or 18-wheeler accidentsfalls, and work accidents. The real threat for many brain injury victims is that they might not immediately realize they’ve suffered a TBI. If you even slightly suspect you’ve sustained a TBI, get medical help now.

Here are some tools doctors use to diagnose TBI, from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Typical First Test: Glasgow Coma Score

To assess TBI right after an injury, medical personnel will give a test called the Glasgow Coma Score. It measures functioning in three basic areas:

  • Speaking. Do you speak normally, or don’t make sense, or don’t speak at all?
  • Opening your eyes. Can you open your eyes without a prompt, or only when asked?
  • Movement. Can you move easily, or are you unable to move, even when given a pain stimulus like a pinch or a poke?

The test is scored based on 15 total points. A score of 13 or more can still indicate a mild brain injury. Nine to 12 points indicates a moderate TBI, while eight or less is a severe TBI. The test is limited—the score doesn’t guarantee full recovery. It may not show the extent, or even the existence, of a brain injury.

That’s why medical science developed more sensitive tests. They aren’t always immediately ordered, however. Below are some of the major ones.

Brain Scans

There are two primary tests that might be ordered to determine the existence or the extent of a brain injury soon after an accident:

  • Computerized tomography (CT, or “cat” scan). This is the preferred scan right after an accident because MRIs take too long to process. It takes x-rays from several angles to give a thorough picture of the brain. This can reveal damage such as a brain bleed (cerebral hemorrhage or subdural hematoma) or a brain bruise.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This uses magnets and radio waves to create more detailed images than a CT. MRIs can show more subtle injuries. It’s favored in follow-up exams. Still, according to a 2005 article in the Journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, the overwhelming majority of mild brain injury victims have normal MRIs.

Since even these tests have their limits, additional testing may prove the extent of the brain injury.

Neuropsychological Testing

These assessments are performed by a trained psychologist. They are designed to be an exhaustive study of a brain injury victim’s ability to function in the world. The neuropsychologist should make a detailed study of your personal history, work history, and health—including the treatment for your brain injury. It should include an interview with you, and maybe family.

You undergo a series of tests to measure:

  • Cognitive ability
  • Language skills
  • Behavior
  • Muscle function

The neuropsychological evaluation can show the long-term effects of the injury and suggest additional rehabilitative treatment.

We’re Here to Help

For an injury victim, any brain injury, no matter how mild, can be a confusing, frightening, and frustrating experience. We help folks like you and your families get compensated for your injuries, which can include lifelong medical care in an accident case, or extensive workers compensation benefits.

These are often complex cases with delicate victims. We aim to protect you and handle you with care. If you’ve got questions about a brain injury case, call toll-free 888-230-1841 in a friendly, pressure-free strategy session where we don’t try to force you to hire us.


Rob Usry
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Rob is a Spartanburg personal injury lawyer. Rob also practices as a criminal defense attorney.

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