Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can be caused by anything from a fall to a car crash to a mishap on an athletic field. Sometimes, a person’s head doesn’t even need to strike anything. Any sudden movement of the head can cause the brain to move around within the skull, causing serious damage.
Fortunately, we know a lot more about TBI and concussion (which is a type of TBI) than we used to. That means people (particularly children and teens) are more likely to see a doctor after suffering a head injury than they once were.
How are TBIs diagnosed?
There’s still no definitive test for all TBIs. Doctors diagnose them based on multiple evaluations of the patient.
They’ll want to know what happened and what symptoms a patient is experiencing. A mild TBI can cause headaches, dizziness, memory impairment and blurred vision. A moderate to severe TBI can cause nausea, weakness in the extremities and slurred speech. However, not everyone experiences symptoms right away.
A doctor should do a neurological exam to test a person’s motor and sensory functions, reflexes, coordination and thinking. An eye exam can also show signs of neurological damage. They should also do imaging, like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or a CT scan. However, these are primarily done to rule out obvious signs of brain injury, like bleeding, that need immediate attention.
Doctors often have to reach a conclusion about whether or not someone has suffered a TBI based on multiple tests that don’t offer definitive answers unless there’s clear evidence of damage to the brain. So can they be held responsible if they fail to diagnose a TBI?
There may be situations in which they can be – for example, if a crucial test wasn’t performed, if results were misread or if a doctor had no experience in diagnosing TBIs and didn’t consult with someone who die. If you or a loved one suffered harm from an undiagnosed or misdiagnosed TBI, it’s best to seek legal guidance to determine whether you have a medical malpractice case.