New Technology Helps Doctors Visualize Closed Head Injuries //
Car accidents result in brain injuries far more often than most people realize. Many who have been in a serious motor vehicle collision often have some head trauma symptoms, such as a temporary loss of consciousness or disorientation after the crash. Many people also develop headaches, which can persist long after the crash.
In the weeks following an accident, some people develop cognitive symptoms, including forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, and struggling to think of a word they want to say. Some also develop dizziness and balance issues. Others display uncharacteristic emotional changes like angry outbursts, anxiety, and symptoms of depression.
If a car accident patient reports such symptoms, physicians who understand closed head injuries (CHI) or mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBI) will recognize the problem and diagnose the injury. But if the patient does not report the symptoms, or their doctor is not experienced in recognizing brain injuries, these conditions can go undetected. An MTBI can be devastating to a patient, both at work and in their family life.
Even when promptly diagnosed, patients with this kind of injury often struggle to receive full and fair compensation from insurance companies. MBTI and CHI are often described as “invisible injuries.” This is because these injuries do not have physically obvious symptoms, such as bleeding from the head or x-rays showing fractured skulls. The damage in MBTI and CHI is typically internal – occurring entirely inside the patient’s skull.
MBTI and CHI are the result of bruising and micro bleeding in the soft matter of the brain, which is encased in the hard shell of the skull. This kind of trauma occurs when the soft, fragile parts of your brain collide with the surrounding bone. A violent motor vehicle collision, for instance, can generate abrupt shaking and repeated jostling of a patient’s body. The patient’s head is particularly susceptible to this trauma because of its location at the end of their neck, which often snaps back and forth during a car accident. When the trauma from a collision is significant, brain damage can be expected. The type of brain damage that occurs during car crashes is similar to other known brain injuries, such as “shaken baby syndrome.”
Diagnosing Brain Injuries
Physicians diagnose brain injuries from car accidents based on their patients’ reported symptoms. Headaches are one of the most common symptoms, along with cognitive difficulties. Although an experienced doctor can identify the symptoms of brain injuries we described above, the damage is generally microscopic and invisible in x-rays or CT scans. Even MRI imaging of the brain can appear normal when there is a significant brain injury at the microscopic level.
If a patient’s symptoms continue for more than 6 months after a car accident, trained neuropsychologists can administer neuropsychological tests to clarify the injury. This kind of testing is not invasive. Instead, it involves a detailed interview process, with questions and pen and paper style tests. Neuropsychologists use variations between a patient’s test responses and the expected responses of normal patients to identify abnormalities in how the brain is working. Although neuropsychological tests can identify problems in cognitive functioning, they have some vulnerabilities. Identifying cognitive difficulties still fails to physically “show” the damage in the brain.
Because neuropsychological tests rely entirely on the responses of a patient during testing, the data can be interpreted as “unreliable.” Moreover, the reliability of the test results depends largely on the training, experience, and skill of neuropsychologists. As such, both the data obtained from these tests and its interpretation by the neuropsychologist are subject to being criticized as “subjective” evidence of brain injury.
Obstacles to Recovering Compensation
Because the usual indicators of a brain injury after a car accident are subjective symptoms and lack physical evidence, insurance claims adjustors are very skeptical of brain injury claims and take advantage of this weakness to undervalue claims. Unsurprisingly, the insurance company typically makes “low-ball” settlement offers that fail to recognize the impact of the patient’s injury.
If a victim of CHI and MTBI does not settle for the low-ball offer, they may be forced to file a lawsuit to obtain fair compensation for a serious injury to their brain. In lawsuits, however, juries can also be skeptical of brain injury claims from a car accident – often for the same reasons as insurance adjusters.
In court, each side typically has an expert witness. These experts have completely different opinions about whether the nature of a patient’s brain injury, including whether or not there is an injury and how severe that injury may be. Many times, expert witnesses draw entirely different conclusions from the same neuropsychology test results. As a result, the significance of the neuropsychology test results is usually unclear and disputed in court.
What patients need to prove their injury and receive fair compensation for brain damage is “objective” evidence of an injury. But what is “objective” as opposed to “subjective” evidence of an injury? An example may be helpful:
Imagine that a man rushes into the emergency room complaining of severe pain in his arm after falling on it. The pain he reports to the doctor is a “subjective” indication of injury because the patient is the source of the information. As in many areas of medicine, however, the doctor relies on this subjective evidence and orders an x-ray of the arm. The x-ray then shows fractured bones in the man’s arm. The x-ray is an “objective” indication of the injury because there is a picture of the damage. For mild traumatic brain injuries and closed head injuries, there is no picture. Consequently, brain injuries from car crashes can be very difficult to prove.
The net result of these obstacles and challenges is that too many patients with real and significant brain injuries do not receive fair compensation for life-changing injuries. Without being able to show a picture of their brain damage to insurance companies and some juries, patients with these injuries have been at a disadvantage. In most cases, the missing link between a serious injury and appropriate compensation is objective proof of brain damage from the car accident.
Uncovering Invisible Injuries
But what if technology could let you see the actual damage in the brain? Wouldn’t that “even the playing field” for patients with these injuries and the insurance companies they are up against? And what if new technology was also able to support neuropsychological test results with photographic evidence, linking the location of damage to the abnormalities that appear? This kind of technology would help brain injury patients prove their “invisible injury,” – and significantly improve their chances of being fully and fairly compensated.
Good news! A new imaging technology allows doctors to see actual, physical damage in the brain – damage they could not see before! The new technology uses traditional MRI scans and specialized computer programs. By analyzing imaging scans in multiple, specialized processing routines on a computer, doctors can visualize brain injuries they could not see before.
These computer programs have previously been used in other areas of medicine. They are FDA-approved and can now be applied to produce extraordinary images of the brain. This new application of MRI imaging allows radiologists to “see” brain damage and determine its exact location in the brain. What used to be an “invisible injury” is no longer invisible.
Details About the Test
The MRI test takes only one hour to do. After the MRI, data processing produces some of the most sensitive images of the brain available to doctors. The technology measures 47 parameters of various brain structures. Then, the computer analyzes whether nerve tracts in the brain are damaged. It also measures the amount of blood flow in key areas of the brain. As a result, physicians can now “see” micro bleeding in the brain, something that was not previously possible. When all the images are processed and combined with computerized data, they can actually show areas of swelling in the brain caused by trauma. Additionally, a follow-up test can be performed about six months later, showing the permanent results of any swelling. If the previously swollen areas of the brain show atrophy, (i.e. wasting away of brain tissue), this can be used as objective evidence of what was previously called the “invisible injury.”
What This Means for You
The amazing new technology we’ve described in this blog can give a brain injury patient – and their attorney – amazing images of the brain and objective proof of brain damage. These images can be shown to insurance adjustors, which may result in a fair settlement – without a lawsuit.
If the insurance company still refuses to settle your case fairly, these new images can be brought into evidence and used as exhibits during trial, thus showing the jury your “invisible injury” and proving the extent of your injuries and losses.
If you believe you may have a closed head injury or MTBI and would like more information about this new technology, call any of the personal injury lawyers at Gaddis, Herd, Craw & Adams, P.C.
You can reach us at (719) 249-6240 or online – get in touch today for a free consultation.