Neurological Examination After Head Trauma

Head trauma and concussions can happen to adults and children alike. There are countless different ways in which traumatic brain injuries can occur: a direct physical blow to the head, falling on the ground, or a car accident – among many other possibilities.

However, concussions can also happen even when there is no direct blow to the head. In some cases, a concussion can even happen with simple sudden movements or jolts, and these “minor” concussions often go undetected and undiagnosed. Even when caused by a direct blow to the head, most concussions don’t lead to a loss of consciousness and are left untreated.

Each concussion is different, and not everyone exhibits the same symptoms. The best way to recognize and assess the extent of a concussion is to get a neurological exam by a clinical neuroscience practitioner. Here is what you can expect.

Examination of Physical Injuries

patient and doctor going over x-ray image of headThe first step when someone experiences a severe injury to their head is to look for signs of physical impact on the scalp. This includes bruises, lacerations, gashes, scratches, and swelling. Other common indicators or physical side effects that might manifest from a blow to the head are: unsynchronized pupil reactions, vomiting, and visual impairments/difficulties.

The best method of assessing the extent of a brain injury is to get a thorough neurological exam by a clinical neuroscience practitioner – mild concussions are hard to assess if not medically trained to do so.

In a situation where you or someone you know has suffered from a physical impact to the head, make sure to look for these common symptoms and closely monitor how they are feeling for the next 48 hours. Should the patient experience worsening symptoms, consult with a medical professional or neuroscience practitioner immediately.

Assessing Mental Status

Assessing mental status is important to establish the reliability and validity of a neurological assessment. Much of a patients’ mental status following a head trauma can be assessed and recorded simply from observations and answers to questions during conversation.

When assessing mental status, these 6 areas should be considered: attentiveness, level of awareness, speech and language, memory, mood, and orientation.


Changes In Level of Consciousness

One of the most important examinations every practitioner will do is asses whether or not the patient has an abnormal level of consciousness. These kinds of changes clearly indicate the presence of atypical pathology. This assessment is done immediately following the head trauma.

In some cases, it can be done on an ongoing basis to monitor the progress or regress of the condition relative to a baseline test. We recommend that patients undergo consistent testing for 3 days in a row after they’ve suffered a head trauma.

Neurological Assessments

There are many types of neurological assessments that licensed practitioners will do with their patients. Neurological assessments are the most effective way of recognizing and analyzing concussions. In most cases, doctors will use a special brain imaging techniques like CT or MRI scans to look for brain abnormalities.

Unfortunately, CT & MRI scans are often ineffective in recognizing concussions because most lesions in the brain caused by a head trauma are too small to be identified by these types of scans. This is why neurological assessments are a fundamental tool in understanding the effects of a head trauma as a whole and can evaluate just how extensive the damage is.

doctor getting blood pressure reading

Common neurological assessments include:

  • Assessing mental capacity & status
  • Pupil size assessment
  • Sensory exams
  • Pupil reactivity assessment
  • Blood pressure measurement
  • Handgrip strength assessment
  • Motor function & balance exercises
  • Pulse measurements
  • Respiration assessment

In most cases, these neurological assessments last around an hour. They are non-invasive and don’t involve any brain stimulants. Sometimes people might not feel any initial symptoms after a traumatic brain injury. This is why it’s generally a good idea to visit a practitioner and go through the examination to make sure everything is in good order.

Broadview Can Help with Concussion Treatment in Ottawa

Have you recently experienced a serious head trauma? Are you exhibiting symptoms that are making attending school or comfortably finishing basic daily tasks a challenge? Whether you have a mild concussion or a more severe one, we can treat you.

At Broadview Health Centre, we know how to treat a concussion. We have the experience, training, and equipment to give you an accurate diagnosis and to provide the treatment you need to improve your recovery. Contact us today using the form below to book your first appointment, or to ask us questions to find out more about concussion treatment in Ottawa.

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