How Is a Traumatic Brain Injury Diagnosed?

In most cases, a traumatic brain injury is an emergency. The consequences of such an accident can worsen without proper treatment. But first, the doctors must assess the situation and diagnose the brain injury. Currently, the “Glasgow Coma Scale” is used to assess the severity of a brain injury. The test involves your ability to follow directions, move the eyes and limbs, and coherently form speech. These abilities are then scored from three to 15. A high score means a less severe brain injury, and a low score means a more severe injury. But, that’s not the end of the diagnosis. The doctors require imagery of the brain and the damage. Most often, a CAT scan, MRU, SPECT, or PET are scheduled for a better evaluation.

Methods to Diagnose a TBI

Following a traumatic brain injury, seek immediate medical attention for a TBI diagnosis.

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With a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury, such as a blow directly to the head, diagnosis is relatively straightforward. It is when you mix in other life-threatening injuries, such as those caused by a car accident, that a head injury can be overlooked. The focus of all medical professionals is on treating the life-threatening injuries before them, such as extreme blood loss.

In such a case, the patient may wind up on a ventilator and sedated for the time being. This temporary vegetative state makes evaluating a brain injury difficult, if not impossible, until the patient can re-emerge from the state. Even then, a mild traumatic brain injury cannot be fully diagnosed until the individual is capable of speaking, moving their eyes or limbs, and performing simple tasks.

With all of that being said, when diagnosing a severe traumatic brain injury – an incident focused directly on the head or brain – certain symptoms will arise. For instance, an injury to the frontal lobe leads to a loss of high cognitive function, meaning inappropriate behavior or outbursts. An injury to the brainstem, on the other hand, may inhibit breathing, heart rate, and arousal. These symptoms are immediately noticeable to the medical team, as is a loss of consciousness, memory loss, or difficulty speaking.

Information About the TBI

Many medical professionals will have a series of questions to ask the patient or those who witnessed the accident/incident in question. These questions vary, but most include:

  • How did the injury occur?
  • Did the patient lose consciousness?
  • How long were they unconscious for?
  • Were there any noticeable changes in alertness, speaking, coordination, etc.?
  • Was the patient’s body whipped or jarred?

These questions, and more like them, provide a better idea of the accident and the injury.

If you have any further questions regarding the diagnosis of a traumatic brain injury or living with a TBI, please visit the TryMunity community at for support and informative dialogue on the topic!