Traumatic Brain Injury Levels – the Glasgow Coma Scale

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When first responders show up at an accident scene, they have to act quickly to assess injuries. This is particularly important when a victim has suffered a serious head injury. Traumatic brain injury levels are assessed using the Glasgow Coma Scale.

These assessments form the basis of emergency room treatment. The classification you receive may be important in a subsequent personal injury lawsuit.

The Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) is the most common scoring system used to evaluate a brain injury. Medical professionals use the Glasgow Coma Scale to work out the level of consciousness of a traumatic brain injury sufferer.

The test is simple. First responders and other medical professionals have used it for decades since its inception in 1974. The GCS is routinely used by trained staff at accident scenes, at emergency departments and intensive care units, and at sporting events when an athlete suffers a concussion.

Medical professionals use the Glasgow Coma Scale to give a score to the patient. The lower the number assigned to the patient, the more serious the injury.

Brain injuries can be extremely complicated. The Glasgow Coma Scale gives an indication of the level of extreme brain injuries. However, it’s a less effective tool for concussions and more subtle head injuries. If you have suffered a brain injury please consult our experienced Virginia brain injury team.

What Does the Glasgow Coma Scale Measure?

The GCS measures the following functions and provides a score. A score of 1 indicates no function.

Eye Opening

·       4 = spontaneous

·       3 = to sound

·       2 = to pressure

·       1 = none

·       NT = not testable

Verbal Response

·       5 = orientated

·       4 = confused

·       3 = words, but not coherent

·       2 = sounds, but no words

·       1 = none

·       NT = not testable

Motor Response

·       6 = obeys command

·       5 = localizing

·       4 = normal flexion

·       3 = abnormal flexion

·       2 = extension

·       1 = none

·       NT = not testable

The overall GCS score is a sum of all of the three tests. Medical providers use the scale to rate the best verbal response, the optimum eye opening response, and the best motor response the patient makes.

How to Use the Glasgow Coma Scale

A patient's Glasgow Coma Score (GCS) is highlighted on a coma scale chart. It notes the improvement or worsening of a patient's condition.

The scale provides a quick and easy reference point to doctors, nurses and other professionals. They can also see at a glance whether the patient’s condition is improving or deteriorating.

How Are Brain Injuries Classified Using the Glasgow Coma Scale?

Every brain injury is different, but generally, brain injury is classified as:

·       Severe: Glasgow Coma Scale 8 or less

·       Moderate: GCS 9-12

·       Mild: GCS 13-15

Mild brain injuries are not necessarily insignificant. They can lead to temporary or permanent neurological symptoms. They are also tricky to diagnose. Commonly-used neuroimaging tests like CT scans or MRIs do not always show evidence of damage, Brainline notes.

Moderate and severe brain injuries typically cause long-term problems in thinking skills known as cognition, physical skills or emotional and behavioral issues.

The long-term care needs and medical bills associated with a moderate or a serious brain injury may be astronomical. You should always take these injuries seriously and talk to a trial lawyer who has litigated these cases at the highest level.

How Accurate is the Glasgow Coma Scale?

Many factors other than a brain injury affect a patient’s level of consciousness or responsiveness. The patient may be drunk or under the influence of drugs. These factors can cause an inaccurate GCS score.

The GCS test is not used on younger children because they lack reliable language skills. Medical professionals use the Pediatric Glasgow Coma Scale, which is a modification of the system used on adults. It utilizes eye, verbal, and motor responses and considers the values separately.

As with the GCS, pediatric brain injuries are classified by their severity. The Pediatric Glasgow Coma Scale uses the same scoring levels as adults. A score of 8 or lower reflects the most severe brain injuries, 9-12 reflects a moderate injury and 13-15 indicates a mild TBI. Moderate and severe injuries in children often result in significant long-term impairments that can affect them for the rest of their lives.

Talk to a Virginia Brain Injury Lawyer after a TBI

Not all attorneys handle brain injury cases. It takes considerable resources and knowledge. At the Smith Law Center and the Brain Injury Law Center, we have helped people with brain injuries for decades.

Attorney Stephen Smith is a brain injury lawyer with an international reputation. Stephen and his team have secured multi-million dollar results across the country. Call us at 757.244.7000.