Brain injury diagnosis becoming more common, more sophisticated

Posted on in Catastrophic Injuries

Imagine being involved in what seems like a minor car accident. Just as the other vehicle hits, your head hits the side window or another part of the car. Experiencing no other injuries or immediate side effects, you dismiss the ensuing headache as a harmless bump. But did you suffer a brain injury? How would you know for certain?

The latest research on traumatic brain injuries suggests they're much more common than previously thought. As experts learn more about the long-term effects of head trauma, they're also discovering a broader range of TBI among all age groups. Mayo Clinic researchers have developed a new, more comprehensive system for classifying brain injuries and concluded that the incidence of TBI is probably greater than estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Mayo Traumatic Brain Injury Classification System classifies brain injuries using a much more comprehensive scale. Using categories including "definite," "probable" and "possible," the new classification method allows researchers to categorize symptoms from dizziness and nausea to a loss of consciousness. Using the data from this system, one of the study's authors, the director of brain rehabilitation research at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, said it's likely that many traumatic brain injuries have gone undiagnosed.

The research team also incorporated medical records data compiled over several decades to determine a more accurate frequency of TBIs. Although the CDC estimates that TBIs occur in 341 per 100,000 people, the Mayo Clinic team now suspects the number is closer to 558 TBIs per 100,000. Furthermore, 60 percent of injuries fell outside the CDC's standard categorization. Most at risk for "definite" and "possible" head injuries are the elderly and the young, respectively, and men are at greater risk than women.

More accurate, complete assessment of the frequency of brain injuries should lead to better treatment, as well as stronger injury prevention programs. More accurate diagnoses of brain injuries could also mean that you won't be left wondering what the long-term effects will be of that seemingly minor car accident.

Source: The Jerusalem Post, "Brain trauma more common than thought," Mayo Clinic

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