How Are Brain Injuries Classified?

Click For Free Consultation

A brain injury is one of the most serious potential outcomes of an accident in Omaha. Damage or an injury to the brain can affect all aspects of life, including motor function and cognitive abilities. Many different accidents can cause brain injuries, including falls and motor vehicle collisions. Brain injuries are classified in a few different ways: by cause, type and severity. Ask your doctor for more information about your brain injury diagnosis beyond these basic facts.

brain injury classification

Traumatic vs. Acquired Brain Injuries 

First, brain injuries are placed into one of two main categories based on the mechanism of the injury. If the brain injury was caused by an internal problem, such as an interruption to the flow of oxygen or blood to the brain, it is an acquired brain injury (ABI). By contrast, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are from external sources of trauma, such as blunt force impact against the head or skull in an accident. Both ABIs and TBIs can cause significant brain damage by injuring or killing the brain’s cells.

Open vs. Closed Brain Injuries

Then, the physician will examine the skull to categorize the injury as an open or closed head injury. An open head injury means that the injury fractured or penetrated the skull. A closed head injury means that the skull was not penetrated but the brain still sustained an injury, such as by bouncing around inside of the skull. Open and closed brain injuries are both devastating types of injuries that can result in life-changing symptoms for a victim.

Types of Brain Injuries

Next, the doctor will use tests such as x-rays and CT scans to diagnose the specific type of brain injury. The type of injury is important, as this will help determine the appropriate treatment plan. If there is brain swelling, for example, a doctor may recommend surgery to relieve the pressure within the skull. The injury type can also determine what symptoms the patient might experience, as well as the patient’s prognosis for recovery. Injury type is diagnosed based on the location of the injury, its mechanism and morphology (how it affects the nervous system). 

The types of brain injuries include:

  • Penetrating brain injury
  • Concussion
  • Contusion
  • Diffuse-axonal injury
  • Shaken Baby Syndrome
  • Coup-contrecoup injury
  • Edema (swelling)
  • Hematoma (bruising)
  • Hemorrhage (bleeding)
  • Second-impact syndrome
  • Brain aneurysm
  • Stroke

Identifying the type of brain injury generally takes medical procedures such as physical exams and imaging scans. A coup-contrecoup injury, for example, will show up on an x-ray as damage to one side of the brain from striking the skull and damage to the exact opposite side of the brain from striking the skull again in a rebound.

Injury Severity

Finally, a brain injury specialist will determine brain injury severity. This classification is typically based on how much the injury affects the central nervous system. The most common assessment tool for brain injury severity is the Glasgow Coma Scale, created in 1974. This scale classifies brain injury severity in three levels based on a point system:

  • Mild: 13 to 15 points.
  • Moderate: 9 to 12 points.
  • Severe: 8 points or less.

A doctor will assess points for a patient’s eye opening, verbal and motor responses during an examination. Fewer total points mean the patient showed little to no response to the doctor’s cues, while more points mean a more healthy or normal response. It is important to note, however, that all brain injuries are serious – even those that are classified as mild.

Were You or a Loved One Diagnosed With a Brain Injury? Get Help

Brain injuries are extremely complex and nuanced injuries that can have a wide range of effects on a victim. Common symptoms include headaches, blurred vision, dizziness, disorientation, memory loss, loss of consciousness and trouble communicating. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a brain injury after a preventable accident in Omaha, don’t hesitate to contact an attorney who specializes in brain injury law. One or more parties may owe you financial compensation. An Omaha traumatic brain injury attorney can help you understand and protect your legal rights as a brain injury survivor.