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How do doctors diagnose a brain injury?

Brain injuries are complex and difficult for doctors to diagnose and treat. Not enough is known about the brain to provide doctors with a clear picture of what to expect with these types of injuries.

What is known is that diagnosing this type of injury as soon as possible is imperative to preventing further issues and problems. According to the FDA, diagnosis is never easy but there are guidelines in place to help ensure doctors do the best job possible in detecting these injuries quickly.


The first step in the diagnosis process is to do a physical exam to check for outward signs of a brain injury. The doctor should conduct a neurological exam to study your motor skills, thinking, reflexes, sensory function and coordination. Many brain injuries will affect these areas of mental functioning, giving the doctor a sign that something is wrong.


The doctor should also conduct tests to gather images of the brain, which can show physical damage. However, traditional testing, such as MRIs and CT scans are not good at catching brain injuries, but they are the best options currently available.

Your doctor will carefully look at the scans of your brain to see if there are signs of a brain injury. Combined with the assessment results, the test can help to pinpoint specific damage and at least ensure your doctor can verify that you have a brain injury, even if he or she cannot determine the exact area of the brain suffering damage.

Tests also can bring to light other issues that may occur in conjunction with the brain injury, such as bleeding or swelling.