What is the Best Scan for Diagnosing an Acute Concussion?

A mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), or commonly known as concussion, is a clinical diagnosis; no single test can definitively confirm the diagnosis of an acute concussion. A clinical diagnosis means that a physician or other qualified healthcare professional will make a diagnosis based on the history of the injury, the patient’s signs and symptoms, and a physical exam. There is no best scan for diagnosing an acute concussion. In fact, concussions are routinely diagnosed in emergency departments and urgent care centers without a brain scan.

A concussion does not result in large structural changes to the brain visible on traditional scans such as MRI and CT scan. A concussion triggers chemical and electrical changes in the brain. While these changes often result in widespread disruption of function days, weeks, or even months later, even the most sensitive MRI and CT scans currently available will not detect the chemical and electrical changes that occur in the concussed brain.  Additionally, scans are expensive, sometimes not readily available, and in the case of a CT scan, expose the patient to unnecessary radiation. For these reasons, scans are not routinely performed during an assessment of a suspected concussion. A CT scan may be used in ER settings to determine whether there is active bleeding within the skull which can be an emergency situation requiring surgery. However, most such CT scans are normal.

If a concussion is suspected, it is important to be evaluated by a qualified healthcare professional who is knowledgeable in diagnosing and treating concussions. A proper evaluation and diagnosis of concussion is the first step in an individual’s progress after injury.

If you or someone you know has experienced a concussion from a car accident, a bike crash, a fall, or any other event caused by the negligence of someone else, you should discuss the circumstances with an experienced brain injury attorney.

Jim Dodson
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A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.