Classifying Traumatic Brain Injuries: Mild, Moderate, and Severe

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a type of brain dysfunction sustained as a result of an external force, such as a blow to the head or body. Additionally, brain dysfunction resulting from an external force that pierces the brain tissue, like a bullet, is also considered a TBI. Similar to any other injury, medical professionals classify TBIs into three categories — mild, moderate, and severe — to determine the gravity of each patient’s injury, allowing them to administer the proper treatment and let the patient know what they can expect in terms of recovery.

How Are TBIs Classified?

When a person seeks medical help for a TBI, the attending health care provider will inquire about what symptoms they have experienced thus far, such as if consciousness was lost and for how long.

Typically, the patient will also be assessed using the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS), which measures stimuli response as follows:

  • Eye opening
  • Verbal response
  • Motor response

Each of these responses are scored separately and then compiled to calculate the patient’s final Glasgow Coma Score (GCS). The GCS has its limits (for instance, it cannot identify alcohol intoxication, which would negatively affect the score), but in most cases, it provides enough information to accurately classify a brain injury as mild, moderate, or severe.

If the GCS indicates a severe injury yet more information is needed, a health care provider may order a computerized tomography (CT) scan or even a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to identify areas of physical damage.

Common Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms

Symptoms of mild TBIs (TBIs), or concussions, often include headaches, vomiting, nausea, mood changes, sensitivity to light and sound, and a loss of consciousness for a few seconds to minutes. If consciousness was not lost, patients often experience a dazed and confused state. When patients experience these symptoms to a greater intensity, their injury will likely be classified as a moderate or severe TBI. For example, they may undergo a loss of consciousness for minutes to hours, a persistent or worsening headache, and repeated nausea and vomiting.

If you suspect that you have a TBI, it is important to follow up with your doctor regularly to report each and every physical, emotional, and cognitive development you experience. Unfortunately, the rate of mTBI misdiagnosis in emergency rooms, urgent care centers, and trauma units is alarmingly high, as many mTBIs manifest in small changes over time. If you do not track these changes through consistent reporting, your symptoms may be written off as signs of another condition or illness.

For instance, the following mTBI symptoms may be mistaken as follows:

  • You may be feeling tired and lethargic, two symptoms common to a number of illnesses and conditions, such as the flu, allergies, and even a lack of sleep;
  • You may have headaches, which are also a side effect of a change in prescription and a symptom of dehydration and stress; and
  • You could be having difficulty remembering things and searching for words, which are both signs and symptoms of stress and fatigue.

When all these symptoms are put together and the only common denominator is a head injury, consistent reporting could lead your doctor to start testing for a TBI. The sooner a TBI is diagnosed, the sooner you can start on your path to recovery.

At Del Rio & Caraway, P.C., we have experience helping our clients navigate the common problems that arise with TBIs. Kindly visit our brain injury page to learn more.

Helping Sacramento Residents with TBIs

Del Rio & Caraway, P.C. has helped many Sacramento residents recover compensation after another party’s actions caused them injury. We offer free consultations to all new clients in which we can answer any questions you may have about your rights and the legal process. Our attorney team accepts cases on a contingency fee basis, so if we do not win your case, you will not be charged any legal fees.

Contact Del Rio & Caraway, P.C. online today to speak to a compassionate lawyer.