How To Diagnose A TBI

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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a medical condition that can affect one’s physical, neurological, and/ or emotional functioning. The American Association of Neurological Surgery explains that TBI “is a disruption in the normal functioning of the brain that can be caused by a blow, bump or jolt to the head, the head suddenly and violently hitting an object or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue.” The specific symptoms that manifest because of a TBI will vary significantly, as they depend on a variety of contributing factors (e.g., the type of injury, the severity of the injury, area of the brain that was injured, etc.). TBIs are classified as mild TBIs or moderate to severe TBIs. To be properly treated and individual must obtain an accurate diagnosis and the severity (e.g., mild, or moderate to severe) of the TBI must be distinguished.

Diagnostic Process

The diagnostic process for a TBI begins with a thorough medical evaluation. This typically includes a neurological exam that evaluates one’s coordination, thinking, motor function, sensory function, eye movement, and reflexes. There are also certain diagnostic tools that are used when diagnosing a TBI, including imaging tests such as computerize tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). When assessing the severity of a traumatic brain injury, medical health professionals rely on the Glasgow Coma Scale. According to the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, “the Glasgow Coma Scale provides a practical method for assessment of impairment of conscious level in response to defined stimuli.” The Glasgow Coma Scale is a 15-point test that checks an individual’s ability to follow directions (e.g., moving one’s eyes, limbs, etc.). Based on one’s abilities, the individual is then scored from three to fifteen, where lower scores are indicative of more severe injuries. In conjunction with any medical tests, the evaluating medical professional will rely on the presence of certain symptoms (e.g., the coherence of the individual’s speech) when delineating the severity of his or her injury. Each diagnostic tool serves a distinct purpose and will, respectively, contribute to the evaluating medical professional’s ability in arriving at the most pointed and accurate TBI diagnosis. 

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