How is a Traumatic Brain Injury Diagnosed?

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A traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is an injury caused by a sudden, forceful blow to the head. The effects of a TBI depend on the severity of impact and cause of injury, and may result in the disruption of normal brain function, damage to protective brain tissues, swelling, tearing or bleeding.

In the event of a traumatic brain injury, our multidisciplinary team of specialized physicians are equipped with the latest technologies and fellowship training to provide the highest level of treatment.

Diagnosis

Brain injuries are serious and require prompt medical attention and diagnosis. If you or someone you know has experienced a head injury, or are experiencing these symptoms, you should seek immediate care. Diagnosis of traumatic brain injuries typically involve an evaluation by a physician or emergency medical professional and a series of diagnostic imaging tests.

Before taking imaging scans of the brain, physicians often employ the Glasgow Coma Scale, which is a 15-point test that helps determine the potential severity of brain injury by examining motor responses, eye movement and responses, and verbal responses.

During the test, the physician will evaluate the level of consciousness, the ability to obey commands, and responses to stimuli, and then score responses with the lowest number indicating a more severe injury and the highest indicating a less severe injury.

“By assessing the patient’s physical state and coherence, we’re able able to score the injury and take next treatment steps,” says Rebound neurosurgeon, Dr. Ashok Modha.

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests are crucial tools used to examine which areas of the brain have been injured. CT scans cross-sectional images of the brain, providing the physician with detailed information on the extent of injury, particularly of swelling, bleeding and clots. MRI scans use magnetic fields and radio waves to create images of the brain, nerve tissues, and brain stem, and may provide diagnostic information that a CT cannot.

“Diagnostic imaging allows us to pinpoint the areas of the brain affected by the impact, and examine other intricate areas of the brain that may need medical attention,” says Dr. Modha.

When penetration has occurred in a brain injury, physicians may use angiography to take a deeper, inside look of blood vessel damage. Measuring electrical activity with electroencephalography (EEG) in the brain is another method used in assessing brain damage. Because traumatic brain injuries often cause swelling of the brain, a physician may measure pressure with an intracranial pressure monitor.

Treatment

Treatment of traumatic brain injuries is dependent on the severity of injury and cause of injury. While mild traumatic brain injuries typically do not require treatment aside from supervision, rest and certain pain relieving medication, moderate to severe brain injuries typically necessitate immediate emergency care. This could include medication such as diuretics, anti-seizure drugs or coma-inducing drugs, surgery to repair skull fracture or remove bone fragments from the brain, blood clot removal, contusion treatment, or even surgery to drain excess or accumulated cerebral spinal fluid.

Learn more about traumatic brain injury causes and symptoms here.

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