With moderate or severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), the diagnosis is often self-evident. In the presence of other life-threatening injuries, which is often the case with motor vehicle accidents, closed head injury can be missed. The focus is on lifesaving measures.
The patient may be on a ventilator (breathing machine) and sedated and the evaluation for brain injury will be limited until the patient is allowed to emerge from medications and mechanical ventilation. Mild traumatic brain injury may not be diagnosed until the individual begins to have problems in what were once easy tasks or social situations.
Injury to specific areas of the brain will cause certain symptoms. For example, injury to the frontal lobes will cause loss of higher cognitive functions, such as loss of inhibitions leading to inappropriate social behavior. Injury to the cerebellum will cause loss of coordination and balance. The brainstem controls things like breathing and heart rate, as well as arousal. An injury to this area could inhibit any of these processes.
Methods of Diagnosis:
- A detailed neurological examination is important and will bring out evidence of brain injury
- Brain imaging with CAT scan, MRI, SPECT and PET scan may be useful
- Cognitive evaluation by a Neuropsychologist with formal neuropsychological testing
- Evaluations by physical, occupational and speech therapists help clarify the specific deficits of an individual