This is a question I’ve seemed to be answering for clients lately. You are in a wreck or other event. You go to the emergency room. They look you over, they never say anything about a brain injury, and they send you home. Does this mean you don’t have some type of brain injury?
Emergency rooms (and even other doctors) are notoriously bad at diagnosing brain injuries. Why is that?
First, emergency rooms are triage facilities. They are only really looking for the things that are life-threatening or need to be treated immediately. Too often, this means that they don’t look for brain injuries unless the brain injury is the type that’s completely obvious.
Second, emergency rooms (and most other doctors) don’t know you. For the most part, there’s not a readily available test that we can use during a doctor’s visit to say whether you have a brain injury. The first time a brain injury is diagnosed is usually based on your complaints of your symptoms and comparisons of how you were before you got hurt to how you are after you got hurt. Doctors can compare your symptoms to common brain injury symptoms, but the doctors have to be looking for those symptoms to put two and two together. And doctors usually don’t know you well enough to compare your condition from before the wreck to your condition after the wreck. As a result, it’s often difficult for a doctor to make the diagnoses of a brain injury.
That’s why I tell clients that it’s so important to have friends and family members look for changes in your condition or behavior. For our clients, we have forms that we give you to fill out that can help figure out what problems you’re having. That way, you’ll be in a better position to articulate to your doctor the problems you’re having and the doctor can more easily and quickly make a referral to a neurologist or other treating physician.
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