Bulletins

Delays in Diagnosing Head Injuries

June 17, 2016

One of the most common ways that you can sustain a brain injury is through a head trauma. For example, where you hit your head as you fall over.  As with many conditions, a delay in diagnosing and treating a head injury can have fatal consequences or cause irreversible brain damage.

A head injury can result in subdural haematoma (a blood clot between the surface of the brain and the skull), or a subarachnoid haemorrhage (bleeding in and around the brain). Once someone has sustained a brain injury they are then at a higher risk for developing further complications so as epilepsy.

The consequences of a brain injury are far reaching.  It can cause physical, hormonal, sensory, cognitive, emotional and behavioural issues. These can be temporary or permanent, depending on the location, severity and type of injury. It is therefore essential to get to hospital quickly after sustaining a head injury so that you can receive a prompt diagnosis and treatment.

Upon arriving at hospital a CT scan should be performed to establish how serious the injury is. Often the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) will be used to assess a head injury. The GCS measures the level of consciousness of an individual by assessing verbal, motor and eye responses. Each response on the scale gets a score which is then added up to produce a total. The scale runs from 3 – 15. 3 is the most severe and 15 the least. Thus a score of 13 or above would indicate that the patient had suffered a minor head injury and a score of 8 or less indicates a severe head injury.

Even with a severe head injury, once treated, most people are able to go home after a relatively short period of time (around 48 hours). However, some patients will require brain and/or skull surgery depending on the severity and type of injury the sustained. Sometimes signs and symptoms of brain injury are missed and patients are sent home when they should have been given treatment.

In addition, there may be other factors that result in a delayed diagnosis of a head injury and other serious conditions. There have been recent concerns about ambulance delays. In the last five years 35 patients in total have died as a result of ambulance delays. This included a nine month old baby, two children, a student nurse, a woman who was pregnant and an 87 year old woman. Various Coroners across England and Wales have produced prevention of future death Notices.

Where someone has suffered a head injury, it is essential that they receive a prompt diagnosis. Any delay could cause severe and permanent brain damage.

Here at Metcalfes we deal with all areas of medical negligence, including brain injury. If you think that you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury as a result of medical negligence or are concerned with the quality of care and treatment they are now receiving for a brain injury, we may be able to help.

Please contact us on 0117 239 8012.  Alternatively, you can email us by using our online contact form and we will be happy to discuss your potential claim with you.

Further Reading:

Website content note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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Delays in Diagnosing Head Injuries

Gillian Clark

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