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How is the severity of a brain injury measured?

If you recently learned that a loved one suffered a head injury, one of your first questions may be about how serious the injury is. However, the answer to your question may be more complicated than you expect.

Every brain injury can be considered unique. The effects of an injury may depend on the type of force that caused it, the amount of force that caused it, where impact occurred and other factors. Fortunately, the Glasgow Coma Scale is a common scoring system that most medical professionals use to discuss the level of consciousness someone has after a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

What is the Glasgow Coma Scale?

The Glasgow Coma Scale is a simple test that allows medical professionals to measure someone's level of consciousness, which relates to the severity of an injury. The score someone receives on this test usually correlates with the outcomes of their injury.

Your loved one's medical team may use the Glasgow Coma Scale as part of an initial assessment of your loved one's condition. However, they may use it multiple times throughout treatment to assess any progress.

How does the Glasgow Coma Scale work?

The Glasgow Coma Scale is a 15-point scale that measures eye opening response, verbal response and motor response. The person administering the test would use the numbered scale to rate the best eye opening response, best verbal response and best motor response that the person with the head injury makes. For example, a verbal response that is incoherent but uses words would score a three, but a response the involves only sounds other than words would only score a two.

Generally, a score of eight or less indicates a severe TBI. A score between nine and 12 usually means the TBI is moderately severe. A score between 13 and 15 usually indicates a mild TBI.

A mild or moderate score may be cause for relief. However, it can be important to understand that even mild and moderate TBIs can have a lasting effect on your loved one's life.

The brain is a complicated organ that is responsible for a wide variety of tasks in the body, which makes any injury to the brain especially complicated. The Glasgow Coma Scale helps cut through some of the complicated nature of a TBI. Understanding the scores of this test can help you better communicate with medical staff about your loved one's injury.

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