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Assessing a traumatic brain injury after a car crash

Car accidents often create the right circumstances for traumatic brain injury, which can occur due to a strong impact. Even without a direct blow to the head, the sudden stop at a high speed can lead to damage from the brain's impact against the interior of the skull.

Severe TBI cases, which involve prolonged loss of consciousness and other serious symptoms, tend to be apparent, especially if there are also external signs of head trauma. However, diagnosing moderate TBI can present some challenges and make it harder for sufferers to prove the full extent of their damages.

Initial assessment

Health-care providers may use a variety of tools in assessing the presence and degree of TBI. One common diagnostic test is the Glasgow Coma Scale, which assesses three types of function: speech, ability to open eyes and movement. Higher scores correspond with higher function and lower level of TBI. However, the score has limited helpfulness in predicting future recovery and function.

Providers may further define the level of TBI by considering the GCS score, period of unconsciousness and length of memory loss. These assessments generally aim to form a quick initial diagnosis.

Neuropsychological testing

In-depth speech and neuropsychological testing can yield more information and provide a better picture of the extent of current functioning and future prognosis. Testing can cover speech, cognitive functions, language processing, motor functions and behavior. Neuropsychologists may consider test results in the context of information they gather about the patient's prior functioning. This type of assessment may form the basis of recommendations for future treatment and rehabilitation.

Imaging

Imaging studies use several technologies to get images of the brain that can reveal bleeding or bruising. Especially in cases of mild or moderate TBI, the damage may not always be visible upon imaging.

Expect improvement rather than recovery

Recovering from a TBI can be a complicated process. Many people only experience improvement, not complete recovery, and continue to experience the effects of their injury in many facets of their lives.

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