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The importance of an exam: Traumatic brain injuries

As one of the leading causes of death and disability, head trauma and brain injuries are a concern in the United States. Over 50,000 people die each year as a result of a traumatic brain injury (TBI), showing just how important it is to take steps to reduce the likelihood of these injuries occurring.

Brain trauma happens for many reasons from workplace injuries to car crashes. Regardless of the accident itself, the brain injury requires immediate care. A physician needs to monitor the patient and examine him or her for symptoms and signs of trauma. Even though some brain injury symptoms start out subtle, they tend to develop and worsen over time. By obtaining a medical exam, patients may be able to have worsening conditions treated before they do serious harm.

When brain trauma is diagnosed, doctors have to look at several factors. These include identifying the patient's level of consciousness, determining if the motor functions are altered, monitoring the cranial nerve functions and looking at the patient's vital signs, like the breathing rate, which is linked to the brain stem's functions.

Sensory functions, deep tendon reflexes and external signs of trauma also help physicians identify and plan to treat brain injuries of all types. It is helpful for patients to have another familiar party with them at the appointment, so the doctor can ask about mental confusion, changes in behavior and other acts that the patient may or may not recognize in him or herself.

Getting an exam should be standard after any injury, but it's not. In your case, remember always to go to the hospital after a crash, because it could help save your life or prevent further injury.

Source: Brainline, "Brain Trauma, Concussion, and Coma," Peter M. Black, Patricio C. Gargollo and Adam C. Lipson, accessed May 18, 2018

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