March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, which calls attention to different types of brain injuries, symptoms they may present, and how they are diagnosed. The theme for this year’s Brain Injury Awareness Month is “Change Your Mind” to de-stigmatize brain injury. Below, we will discuss the different tests available to diagnose various types of traumatic brain injury.

What is a traumatic brain injury?

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is characterized by unexpected damage to the brain caused by a blow or trauma to the head. TBI can be caused by a variety of different things such as car or motorcycle accidents, sudden falls, sports injuries, or even attacks. Injuries from TBIs can range from mild concussions to permanent brain damage.

Types of Traumatic Brain Injury

  • Hematoma: A hematoma involves the clotting of blood outside the blood vessels. This type of injury in the brain is considered very serious as it can lead to pressure in the skull, which can result in brain damage.
  • Hemorrhage: A hemorrhage is uncontrolled bleeding that can be located around the brain (subarachnoid hemorrhage) or within brain tissue (intracerebral hemorrhage). 
  • Concussion: A concussion occurs during a severe impact of the head that causes TBI. While symptoms associated with a concussion are usually temporary, recurrent concussions can lead to permanent brain damage.
  • Edema: Edema is swelling. This is more serious when it occurs in your brain because it can lead to pressure, which causes the brain to push against the skull.
  • Skull fracture: Different than most bones in the body, a broken skull cannot absorb the impact, making it more likely to suffer brain damage with a skull fracture. 

How is traumatic brain injury diagnosed?

If you experience any type of traumatic brain injury, you may need to visit an imaging center for imaging tests of the brain. These can include:

  • Computerized tomography (CT): A CT scan (also commonly referred to as a cat scan) takes X-rays to create a detailed digital picture. CT scans can quickly identify bleeding in the brain, bruised tissue, and other damage to the brain.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRI uses magnets and radio waves to produce even more detailed images than CT scans, and they do not use any ionizing radiation to create the images. Usually, an MRI wouldn’t be used as part of an initial TBI assessment because they take too long; however, an MRI may be used after the initial exam. 
  • Intracranial pressure (ICP) monitoring: Sometimes swelling of the brain from a TBI can increase pressure, which can cause additional damage to the brain. During this test, your doctor may insert a probe through the skull to monitor this swelling and, in some cases, drain it to relieve pressure. 

Brain Injury Awareness Month is the perfect time to learn about the different types of traumatic brain injury. Time is of the essence when treating brain injuries, and it’s important to not write off an injury because the person “seems” fine. If your or someone you know suffers from a brain or head injury, visit the imaging specialists at Rosetta Radiology.