Many people, including many doctors, view traumatic head injuries as separate events from spinal cord injuries. This can often lead to misdiagnosis of SCIs when a traumatic brain injury is also present. According to a study from Brazil, spinal cord injuries involving the cervical, or neck, portion of the spine are most likely to be misdiagnosed when head trauma is also present.
Head Trauma May Hide SCI
The study reviewed records from nearly 200 patients, 112 male and 78 female, who ranged in age from 11 to 76 years with an average age of 34 years. These subjects were injured in a variety of types of accidents, including falls, motor vehicle accidents, and pedestrian accidents. Of those in the study, 53 percent had severe head trauma and 47 percent had moderate head trauma. In addition, 14 patients suffered serious spinal cord injuries. Patients were tested using the Glasgow Coma Scale, and those with higher scores were much more likely to have also suffered SCI.
The doctors concerned in the study determined that if a head injury is severe enough to cause a coma, energy is often transmitted to the cervical spine, making it highly likely that the two types of injuries can occur simultaneously. However, the study’s results stated that in many cases, x-ray or other imaging of the cervical spine was not done in the cases in which TBI resulted in a coma. These results suggest that it is relatively common for hospitals to misdiagnose SCI when severe TBI is also present, perhaps because the head injury is so obvious and takes precedence over any other testing and diagnosis. However, SCI should still be treated in every case to prevent future damage to the victim. The fact that such a high percentage of SCIs were misdiagnosed in this study is troubling to anyone who works with victims of these types of accidents and may have serious implications for future victims.
Implications for Victims
In cases in which someone is seriously injured in a fall or a crash, it is critical that family members advocate for complete testing. Even in cases in which a TBI results in a coma, it is still important to screen for and treat cervical spine injuries. With proper screening and testing, the disastrous effects of a cervical spinal cord injury may be mitigated to some extent, and victims may be given the best chance at survival and recovery.
If you or someone you love has been the victim of an accident involving a traumatic head injury, a spinal cord injury, or both, it is important that you protect your rights. At Barber & Associates, we have been working for decades to defend the rights of accident victims and help them get the proper care and treatment they need to recover. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you protect yourself and recover monetary damages that will help you receive the treatment you need and deserve.