How easy is it to recognize the signs of head injury? Is it possible for EMT's and other medical personnel to "miss" these signs and misdiagnose a serious injury as a minor trauma? Head trauma leads to more than 2.8 million visits to the ER, and roughly one in every ten of these results in hospitalization. Injuries to the brain are not always easy to detect. Moreover, misinterpretation of data gathered and used to ascertain the Glasgow Coma Scale can make it appear that a patient does not have serious injuries. Some estimates show that initial misdiagnosis may happen in up to 80% of traumatic brain injuries.
EMT's, emergency room doctors, and primary care physicians use the Glasgow Coma Scale as a yardstick for determining the severity of an injury. The scale uses measures including reaction to sound, pressure, and touch, as well as the patient's general orientation, ability to speak, and ability to answer a range of simple questions. If a patient scores sufficiently high on the scale, the physician may not order CT scans and x-rays that can identify lesions and tears within the brain tissue. Moreover, members of the medical team may neglect to repeat the tests and log a patient's progress on subsequent visits. This can have serious consequences as it is not uncommon for those with traumatic brain injuries to experience delayed onset of symptoms. Failure to closely monitor a patient's progress can cause symptoms to go undiagnosed and treatment to be delayed.
From 2007 to 2013, ER visits stemming from head trauma increased by more than 47%. During this period, hospitalizations decreased by 2.5% and death rates decreased by 5%. Reasons for these declines include improvements in x-ray and CT scanner technology as well as better recognition of brain trauma symptoms. Delays or mistakes in diagnosing the signs of head injury can have devastating consequences that can include learning disorders, memory disorders, paralysis, and even death. The longer a brain injury goes undiagnosed, the greater the likelihood of serious repercussions that can diminish the individual's long-term recovery prospects.
When a mild traumatic brain injury occurs, it can cause the patient to feel dizzy, show signs of confusion, experience blurred vision and/or ringing ears, and may feel nauseous. Patients may also "black out" for a short period of time. These symptoms typically clear up within a few hours to a few weeks following the injury. In many cases, physicians only recommend passive monitoring, bed rest, dietary changes, and the use of over the counter pain medications including aspirin and ibuprofen to treat these symptoms.
Moderate traumatic injury typically results in the patient losing consciousness for a period greater than 30 minutes. However, the other symptoms are the same as mild trauma and if the patient doesn't lost consciousness, then it's possible for the physician to make a misdiagnosis. In fact, this is the most common point of misdiagnosis because the presentation of mild to moderate signs of head injury are very similar. Conversely, moderate to severe brain injury is relatively easy to diagnose as it involves a loss of consciousness for a period of greater than 24 hours.
Brad Pistotnik Law represents clients who have signs of head injury in Liberal, Wichita, Overland Park, and elsewhere in Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Illinois, and Missouri. Our office helps clients seek the compensation they require to recovery financially, physically, and mentally following a misdiagnosed head injury.
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