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Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms


The brain is an incredibly intricate system of circuits, nerves, and tissue that continues to occupy the sole focus of countless professionals around the world on a daily basis. While we have come a long way in terms of recognizing the warning signs of a traumatic brain injury and diagnosing the problem, we still have a lot of work to do. One of the central focuses of the medical science community in recent years has been diagnosing traumatic brain injuries. Clearly, that all starts with understanding brain injury symptoms. There are nearly as many brain trauma symptoms as there are parts of the brain. Below you’ll find information regarding different approaches used to diagnose traumatic brain injuries and to measure their severity. You will also find examples of traumatic brain injury symptoms for each of these degrees of severity.

Systems for Diagnosing Traumatic Brain Injuries

Over the years, different medical professionals have come up with different systems that they use to diagnose traumatic brain injury symptoms. Below are a few examples of these diagnostic approaches.

The Glasgow Coma Scale

The Glasgow Coma Scale, or GCS, was developed in 1974 in order to bring about more uniformity in identifying and assessing brain trauma symptoms. The GCS is a 15-point scale that assigns a numerical value to motor response, verbal response, and eye-opening. It breaks down as follows:

Motor Response

  • No response – 1 point
  • Extensor response – 2 points
  • Abnormal flexion – 3 points
  • Withdraws from noxious stimuli – 4 points
  • Localizes to noxious stimuli – 5 points
  • Obeys commands fully – 6 points

Verbal Response

  • No sounds – 1 point
  • Incomprehensible sounds – 2 points
  • Nonsensical verbalization – 3 points
  • Confused but relatively coherent speaking – 4 points
  • Alert speaking – 5 points

Eye Opening

  • No eye-opening – 1 point
  • Eyes open in response to pain – 2 points
  • Eyes open in response to speech – 3 points
  • Spontaneous opening of the eyes – 4 points

The total points from the three categories are added together, and the following ranges are used to determine the severity of the traumatic brain injury:

  • If a patient scores between 13 and 15 points, he or she is deemed to have suffered a mild injury.
  • If the patient scores between 9 and 12 points, he or she has suffered a moderate brain injury.
  • Anywhere between 3 and 8 points mean that the patient has suffered a severe brain injury and is in an unconscious state.
  • If a patient scores fewer than 3 points, he or she is deemed to be in a vegetative state.

The Rancho Los Amigos Scale

The Rancho Los Amigos Scale was formulated in 1972 by doctors at the Rancho Los Amigos Hospital. This scale measures several different factors with the patient, but unlike the GCS there is no total score involved. Instead, the patient is observed and assigned to one of the following levels:

  • Level I – No Response/Total Assistance
  • Level II – Generalized Response/Total Assistance
  • Level III – Localized Response/Total Assistance
  • Level IV – Confused/Agitated/Maximal Assistance
  • Level V – Confused, Inappropriate Non-Agitated/ Maximal Assistance
  • Level VI – Confused, Appropriate/ Moderate Assistance
  • Level VII – Automatic, Appropriate/Minimal Assistance for Daily Living
  • Level VIII – Purposeful, Appropriate/Stand-By Assistance
  • Level IX – Purposeful, Appropriate/Stand-By Assistance When Needed
  • Level X – Purposeful, Appropriate/Modified Independent

There are other scales that are used, but these are the two most prevalent in the medical community.

Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms – Different Degrees of Severity

Brain injury symptoms will depend somewhat on the degree of severity of the injury that was suffered. As you’ll see below, some of the symptoms for different degrees of traumatic brain injuries overlap. Medical science defines the different levels of traumatic brain injuries as:

Mild – A loss of consciousness of fewer than 20 minutes. Examples of symptoms associated with a mild traumatic brain injury include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Lack of awareness of the surrounding environment
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Intolerance of loud noises
  • Irritability

Moderate – A loss of consciousness that lasts between 20 minutes and 6 hours. Common examples of moderate traumatic brain injuries include:

  • Persistent, worsening headache
  • Persistent nausea and/or vomiting
  • Convulsions
  • Seizures
  • Dilation of the pupils
  • Fluids draining from nose or ears
  • Inability to wake up

Severe – A loss of consciousness that lasts more than 6 hours. Common symptoms of severe traumatic brain injuries include:

  • An extended period of unconsciousness
  • Amnesia after regaining consciousness
  • Impaired attention span
  • Impaired memory
  • Weakness in the extremities
  • Impaired coordination
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

As stated above, it is nearly impossible to categorize brain trauma symptoms in almost any way. The above examples serve only as reference points for people who may have suffered a traumatic brain injury or their loved ones who are concerned about what could have happened to them.

The Uncertainty of Brain Injury Symptoms

Aside from the fact that traumatic brain injury symptoms vary widely on an individual basis in the immediate aftermath of the incident that caused the harm, there are perhaps two larger uncertainties regarding traumatic brain injury symptoms: how long they last and whether or not they are going to change. These uncertainties only make things more difficult for the brain injury survivor and his or her support group. In addition, the fact that brain trauma symptoms are so unpredictable adds to the stress that patients and their support networks experience.

It’s both fortunate and unfortunate that we are still learning about the long-term effects of a traumatic brain injury and how such an injury will affect a person one year, five years, 10 years or longer after he or she survives the initial harm. Patients need to understand that this uncertainty is likely going to be a part of his or her recovery. Families and friends of the patients need to be ready to exercise patience, empathy, and at least a general understanding that many of these symptoms are beyond that patient’s control.

How Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyers Help Alleviate Uncertainty

The duration and particulars of traumatic brain injury symptoms are obviously problematic for everyone involved in the recovery process. Financial uncertainty can also be extremely stressful. It is not uncommon for someone who suffers head trauma to face the following forms of loss:

  • Immediate medical expenses
  • Future medical expenses
  • Immediate loss of income
  • Future loss of income
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Loss of companionship

These losses can quickly climb into the hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars. Most people cannot simply absorb those losses without encountering some type of financial stress.

Traumatic brain injury lawyers who have earned a strong track record of results for clients understand that it takes to hold those responsible for these losses accountable. Gomez Trial Attorneys has been doing just that for over a decade. Our brain injury attorneys are uniquely qualified to handle these matters based on both professional and personal experiences. If you or someone you love has suffered a traumatic brain injury because of the actions of someone else, contact the firm as soon as possible to schedule a free initial consultation.


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