Diagnosis of TBI
If you or a loved one suffers from a traumatic brain injury it’s important to receive medical care as soon as possible in the wake of the injury. It is estimated that between 20 percent and 40 percent of all victims who suffer from a mild form of brain trauma never seek any form of medical care and therefore any long term persistent effects remain undiagnosed and untreated.
Even so, due to the wide range in severity of traumatic brain injuries, TBI is often notoriously difficult for doctors to diagnose and assess. This is particularly true for inexperienced physicians who may be misled by an evident lack of observable or persistent symptoms, behavioral changes or neurological deficits.
Generally, TBI diagnosis is divided into the following three categories:
- Mild Brain Injury – This is the most frequent sort of TBI. In the past, doctors often referred to mild TBI as post-concussion syndrome. A mild head injury is usually associated with a brief loss of consciousness at the time of the initial trauma and the lack of obvious or persistent neurological problems once consciousness is regained. Nonetheless there will often be subtle issues and behavioral issues that become manifest over time. Very often there can be long-term lesions or brain tissue damage resulting from even mild brain injury, along with some form of permanent neurological impairment.
- Moderate Brain Injury – There is a general lack of clarity about the specific conditions and attributes associated with moderate head injury. The medical literature takes a variety of approaches and in many instances throws up its hands at offering any guidance more than characterizing it as an injury between mild and moderate in scale. Admission to a hospital for observation after a trauma accompanied by an extended period of post-trauma amnesia, ranging from 1 to 24 hours, are indications of a brain injury that is moderate in severity.
- Severe Brain Injury – Serious head injury generally refers to any instance in which a head trauma results in an obvious deficit in brain function even after the patient has regained conscious activity. Often these more serious injuries are associated with patients who have remained in a coma for extended period, staying unconscious for a period of hours not minutes in the aftermath of the original trauma. This group of victims with serious, directly observable cognitive impairments represents approximately 10 percent of all those who suffer from TBI.
Given the complexity and subjective nature of many patient complaints associated with TBI, a doctor undertaking a diagnosis will usually undertake a thorough physical exam as well as collect an extensive patient history. Questionnaires are important part of the diagnostic process, in order to compile a full view of the patient’s pre-injury history and status, an account of the accident itself, as well as post-injury symptoms and complaints. Questionnaires and observations shared by family members can also be instrumental in helping develop a full view of the TBI victim’s condition and recovery.
Click here if you would like to see the questions that are typically included as part of a diagnosis Traumatic Brain Injury. These are standardized questionnaires, usually referred to as Awareness Questionnaires, that have been developed to interview patients and their family members in order assess the level of a patient’s post-injury awareness and functioning.
It may be helpful for you to look through these questions in order to get a better idea of the sorts of behaviors and behavioral changes that doctors look for as indicators of a persistent or long-term brain injury. Of course, you should never rely on self-diagnosis as a substitute for receiving prompt care from a well-qualified doctor.