Why TBI is Known as the “Invisible Injury”

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a serious condition in which brain dysfunction occurs due to an external force, typically a violent blow to the head. Although these types of injuries can have life-long consequences, they commonly go undiagnosed for weeks or months. Learn why TBI is known as the “invisible injury,” and why its victims are so often left without the treatment they require.

What Causes TBI?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1.5 million people in the U.S. suffer from a traumatic brain injury each year. These injuries have a variety of causes; the top three causes of TBI include car accidents, firearm incidents, and falls. Young adults and the elderly are those most at risk for TBI.

TBI can occur in many different forms, including the following:

  • Open head injuries can result from bullet wounds, skull penetration, and more.

  • Closed head injuries can result from slips and falls, car accidents, sports concussions, and more.

  • Deceleration injuries happen when the head experiences a rapid change in speed. The differential movement of the skull and brain can cause the brain to slam back and forth within the skull, compress and stretch within the skull, and form air pockets within which gas bubbles form then burst, leading to injury.

  • Hypoxia, or lack of oxygen, can be caused by heart attacks, respiratory failure, drops in blood pressure, a low pressure environment, and more.

  • Tumors caused by cancer can invade parts of the brain, exert pressure on different parts of the brain, and cause injury.

  • Viral and bacterial infections like encephalitis and meningitis can cause serious brain diseases and injuries.

  • During a stroke, blood flow to the brain is blocked, which can cause cell death in the affected area.

Symptoms of TBI

It is not uncommon for a TBI patient to go weeks or months without a diagnosis. Frequently, victims’ early medical charts are devoid of any mention of “head injury” or “cognitive impairment.” This happens because many of the symptoms of “mild” or “moderate” brain injuries are subtle and not picked up even on the most sophisticated hospital imaging equipment. This can have disastrous consequences for patients, as the longer a brain injury goes undetected, the greater the risk of long-term or permanent brain damage.

Symptoms most commonly present in brain injury victims include the following:

  • Inaccurate judgment

  • Lack of communication

  • Inability to conform behavior

  • Frustration and inability to respond in a pre-injury manner

  • Headaches

  • Issues with smell and taste

  • Difficulty with memory and recall

If you have the above symptoms and you suspect you have a brain injury, make sure to contact a medical professional immediately and tell them your concerns. It’s also important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you recover the compensation you deserve if your injury was caused by someone else’s negligence.

Diagnosing TBI

While diagnosting testing for brain injury victims has improved in recent years, it’s still lacking in specific areas, including standard neurological examinations. In fact, research shows that clinical neurological exams are the least effective tests for accurately diagnosing brain injuries.

Many neurological exams study the victim’s responses to motor patterns, which can include the person’s strength and reaction to questions and commands. The issue with this type of exam is that it assumes the injury does not exist if the examiner cannot observe it. This leads to the misdiagnosis of people suffering from mild to moderate TBI, which can have severe life-long implications on the patient’s health and well-being.

A specific type of exam used by medical practitioners is the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS), which rates an individual’s ability to respond to commands or stimuli.

The GCS Severity Classification is as follows:

  • Severe injury (3-9)

  • Moderate injury (9-12)

  • Mild injury (13-15)

The GCS gives an individual a score between three and 15 points. The lower the score, the more severe the injury. To estimate the patient’s prognosis, examiners may accompany the GCS with the Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS), which provides the following outcomes to a TBI:

  • Death, usually within two days of the accident

  • Persistent vegitative state

  • Severe disability

  • Moderate disability

  • Good recovery

While there are instances in which the GCS and GOS may be useful, they cannot always predict the extent or outcome of a brain injury. They also do not work on patients who are sedated.

Clinicians most often use the Galveston Orientation and Amnesia Test (GOAT) to assess severe and moderately impaired patients. Most of this exam’s questions center around whether the patient is oriented to time, place, and person. The measurements obtained using the GOAT questions related to anterograde and retrograde amnesia establish the relationship between severity of injury and a patient’s long-term prognosis.

Moving Forward with a TBI

Because of TBI’s often “invisible” symptoms and the inaccuracy of current neurological examinations, it may be difficult for patients to move forward from a traumatic brain injury. If not treated quickly and correctly, TBI can cause permanent, life-long brain damage. Prompt diagnosis and treatment greatly reduce this from happening.

If you suspect that you or someone you love are suffering from a traumatic brain injury, don’t wait. Our personal injury attorneys at Scarlett Law Group have decades of experience and can provide the legal guidance you need. No one should have to suffer this invisible injury in silence.

Contact Scarlett Law Group today at (415) 688-2176 for a consultation with our San Francisco personal injury lawyers. If your brain injury was caused by someone else’s negligence, we can help you recover the compensation you deserve.

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