Your skull and membranes protect your brain. Both work together to create a hard shell and padding. But in a severe accident, they might not be enough.
When an accident is catastrophic enough to harm brain function, it is called a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
TBIs range from a mild concussion to serious brain trauma.
If you have a brain injury, you will undergo numerous tests and evaluations to determine the type of injury, the extent of the injury, and your prognosis. Neurological testing is more than physical tests. You may experience emotional screenings, mental acuity testing, and more.
As a victim filing a lawsuit for your injury, the testing may be more extreme. Both sides will not only want to verify the extent of the damage, but also determine proper compensation.
You might feel overwhelmed at the list of tests you will experience. Realize that these tests benefit you. Not only do they help prove you have a legitimate injury (which deserves compensation), but they help your physicians accurately diagnose and treat your TBI so that you can recover.
What Tests Are Common for a TBI in Spokane Hospitals?
To correctly diagnose your brain injury, your doctor needs to gather evidence. They will start with a general medical history, then discuss your symptoms and conduct a physical examination. After these initial steps, the diagnostic tests begin. Depending on what your physician suspects, you may experience multiple tests or possibly just one.
The Neurological Examination
A neurologist or neurological surgeon conducts a neurological examination. The physician will assess your overall motor and sensory skills, look at your cranial nerves, test hearing and speech, test vision, and more.
During the initial examination, you may be asked to test your coordination and balance while the physician may test your reflexes.
Be prepared to fill out a questionnaire that discusses changes in mood, sleep patterns, and the symptoms you have been experiencing.
After the examination, your physician will then order diagnostic tests that are standard as part of a neurological exam.
X-rays of your skull are typically taken in a standard neurological examination. This helps look for vertebral misalignment, fractures, or penetrations to the skull. They are less invasive than other diagnostic tests but are still effective for diagnosing potential TBIs. The neurologist may even have an X-ray machine in their office to make it more convenient.
This is a specialized type of x-ray that uses pulsed beams of lower dose radiation to create images of your body in motion. The area is videotaped through the scan and contrasts may be added to highlight injuries in the images. Your neurologist will most likely use this test if they suspect there is an injury causing disrupted blood flow to arteries in the brain.
Blood Work and Laboratory Studies
You can expect blood work and laboratory studies as part of the neurological examination. Specific blood tests can help determine the type of injury and its severity. Some that you may have include:
- Sodium Levels – An alteration to your serum sodium level could indicate serious brain trauma. When your brain experiences injury, your body releases a hormone that causes cerebral salt wasting.
- Magnesium Levels – In minor and severe TBIs, there will be depletions of magnesium levels in your blood. That is because your body is trying to block the excitotoxic response after trauma. In the emergency room, you may receive magnesium or have magnesium levels tested to ensure they are at proper levels.
- Coagulation Studies – A coagulation study, including looking at your prothrombin times (PT), platelet counts, and thromboplastin times, is essential. This will help exclude any risk of coagulopathy, which is a severe condition.
- Blood Alcohol and Drug Screening – When you are seen in the emergency room initially, expect to have your blood testing for alcohol and drug levels. It is standard practice and most hospitals conduct these tests, especially when a motor vehicle accident is the cause of the injury.
Computerized tomography (CT) is a scan that helps determine everything from mild to severe trauma. Even a patient suspected of a concussion should receive a CT scan to verify there is nothing more serious going on.
You may receive repeat CT scans throughout your recovery or if you start to show decline instead of improvement. Also, repeat CT scans may be ordered as part of your lawsuit – especially if the other side questions your prognosis or the laboratory findings from your physician.
A magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI) is typically ordered if you have abnormalities in your mental status such as confusion, coma, loss of consciousness, extreme mood changes, and so forth.
If the CT scan does not reveal why you would have such alterations, then the neurologist will likely order the MRI for a more precise picture. MRIs can show degeneration in the corpus callosum after severe head trauma. They are also more sensitive than CT scans, so they can identify smaller injuries like axonal injury lesions.
You may receive an EEG depending on the results of your other diagnostic tests. An EEG can help diagnose the severity of post-TBI seizures and help your physician better treat convulsions following head injuries.
Evoked Response Tests
These tests evaluate your brain’s response to electrical signals when you hear, touch, or see something. The tests are used to determine any sensory nerve problems that you might develop from your injury.
Lastly, you may have a positron emission tomography (PET) scan completed. These offer two and three-dimensional imagines of the brain’s activity. PET scans can show in detail the extent of brain tissue damage, blood flow, and help evaluate patients who are non-responsive during neurological treatments.
Who Pays for the Neurological Testing?
When you are involved in a severe accident and diagnosed with a TBI, the testing can be quite expensive. Typically, your health insurance and automobile insurance policies would cover the costs of these tests. Even so, you will have deductibles, co-pays, and may max out your policy limits.
If someone caused your TBI, you could request compensation for your injuries. Compensation would pay for these diagnostic tests and the expensive treatments associated with a TBI.
To hold them responsible, you need to contact an injury attorney. An attorney can help negotiate with the other party’s insurance company or the defense to reach a settlement that ensures you are not paying out-of-pocket for these tests resulting from an accident you did not cause.