Brain injuries result from car, motorcycle, or 18-wheeler accidents; falls, 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.
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.
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
- Muscle function
The neuropsychological evaluation can show the long-term effects of the injury and suggest additional rehabilitative treatment.
Speech And Swallowing Tests
Since the brain controls your ability to speak and communicate, plus swallow, an accidental brain injury can affect these functions as well. If you have trouble speaking or swallowing, you may need to be evaluated by a speech pathologist. According to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association [ASHA], the governing association for speech pathologists, you maybe tested for:
- Weakened speech muscles that cause slurring or slow speech making it hard to understand you, called dysarthria
- Uncoordinated speech muscles that prevent you from talking even though you're trying to, called apraxia
- Problems understanding what others say or what you read
- Inability to “find” words you want to say
- Communication barriers, like an inability to “take your turn” and not interrupt in a conversation, plus difficulty recognizing non-verbal cues, like shrugged shoulders
- Swallowing disorders, like an inability to chew properly, or choking when you eat
The speech pathologist’s evaluation can provide a treatment plan to fix the problem, including a rehab program, plus strategies to help accommodate your difficulties.
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.