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Can you hold a doctor liable for failing to diagnose a TBI?

On Behalf of | Oct 5, 2023 | Medical Malpractice

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can happen to anyone at any age. Kids most often suffer them playing sports, while adults often suffer them in car crashes or falls. As Connecticut heads towards another winter, we can expect to see TBIs caused by slipping and falling on ice, for example.

Typically, a TBI occurs when the head strikes a hard surface (or vice versa). However, any sudden motion that causes the brain to move within the skull (like being rear-ended by another car at a high speed) can cause it.

We know a lot more about TBIs than we used to. Greater precautions are mandated in school sports, for example, after a player has suffered a blow to the head to check for a concussion (one type of TBI) before letting them back in a game.

How do doctors test for TBIs?

Medical examination and testing are required to properly diagnose a TBI. Even then, there’s no definitive TBI test

When a patient goes to an emergency room or other medical facility with a suspected TBI, doctors will ask them about a variety of symptoms. These can range from headaches and dizziness with a mild TBI to weakness in the arms and legs and slurred speech for more serious TBIs. These symptoms, however, can take hours or even longer to present.

Doctors may be able to get more information by imaging, such as CT scans and MRIs. However, unless there’s bleeding in the brain, they may not always show that anything is wrong even if the brain has been injured. 

A neurological exam should be part of a TBI diagnosis. This involves testing reflexes, coordination, motor and sensory functions and reflexes, coordination and cognition. Eye exams can also indicate signs of neurological damage resulting from a TBI.

Every case is unique

Given that, as we noted, there’s currently no definitive TBI test, can a doctor be held liable if someone suffers harm or dies because after their TBI wasn’t diagnosed or was misdiagnosed? It all depends on the situation. For example, if a patient had multiple symptoms but a doctor did little or no testing, there may be a case for malpractice.

The best thing to do is seek legal guidance to discuss the facts of a specific situation. This can help you determine whether you have a case.