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Diagnosing Brain Injury

How are brain injuries diagnosed?

A brain injured person is generally taken to a hospital emergency room or a doctor’s office to be examined. This may include a skull X-ray or a CT scan which often are interpreted as being normal. The person is then sent home with a diagnosis of neck or cervical strain and the predominant medical symptom is generally a headache.

As the days and weeks go by, problems with memory, emotional changes, inability to sleep or other behavioral changes start to appear. The initial headache may have worsened or become chronic. A trip to the family doctor may yield a prescription for medication or physical therapy but offers no diagnosis or understanding of traumatic brain injury. Standard X-rays, CT scans and MRI’s miss many of these injuries.

Neuropsychological testing by experts who are knowledgable about brain injury and some new and more precise diagnostic tests, produce more accurate diagnoses. These include 3-Tesla MRI’s, PET scans, Diffusion Tensor Imaging, Susceptibility Weighted Imaging, and Gradiant Echo Imaging. These tests can identify evidence of small hemorrhages indicating diffuse axonal injury and localized changes in the brain’s white matter.

Another valuable test is Electronystagmography‬ or ENG which can identify damage in the vestibular system, the cranial nerves, and brain stem. The ENG is particularly helpful in the diagnosis of so-called “Mild” Brain Injury.

To see the symptoms of brain injuries, click here.


Please note: The information on this website is not meant to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should consult your health care provider regarding specific medical concerns or treatment.

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