How Are Traumatic Brain Injuries Classified?

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By Matthew Maddox / February 19, 2020

Health care professionals are likely to classify each TBI in one of two ways. Understanding these classifications can help you better understand how your loved one’s injury may impact them, their daily life, their work and their relationships.

What is the primary injury?

One way brain injuries are categorized is by primary – or main – injury. Primary injuries include:

  • Intracranial hematomas: This involves a blood vessel rupturing, causing blood to collect in the brain.
  • Skull fractures: This occurs when the skull becomes cracked, broken or crushed, which can injure the brain or lead to infection.
  • Contusions or coup-contrecoups: These similar injuries both involve the brain tissue becoming bruised.
  • Diffuse axonal injury (DAI): This injury happens when connections between the cells in the brain become twisted or torn.

What is your loved one’s score on the Glasgow Coma Scale?

Doctors will also categorize a brain injury by the patient’s score on the Glasgow Coma Scale. This scale uses your loved one’s visual, verbal and motor responses to measure the severity of the injury.

Higher scores are associated with less severe injuries. For example, scores between 13 and 14 indicate the brain injury is mild, such as a concussion.

Lower scores are associated with moderate or severe injuries. Scores between 9 and 12 indicate moderate brain injuries. Scores of 8 or less indicate that the injuries are severe. Severe brain injuries may even be life-threatening.

A TBI may alter your loved one’s life forever, and as someone who loves and cares for that person, this injury can also alter your life. If their injury was the result of someone else’s reckless actions or negligence, you may be able to hold that person responsible. Financial compensation can help cover medical expenses and other costs that can accompany a serious injury like this. Those costs include lost income, lost future income and future health care.