Life without a ‘tricorder’: brain-injury detection difficulties

Tuesday March 4, 2014

On the original Star Trek series, Dr. McCoy had merely to briefly scan someone with a “tricorder” to determine the extent of an injury.

Unfortunately, that aspect of Star Trek remains science fiction. In our culture, it remains difficult to determine how severe a head injury might be.

That is why, if you have been injured in a car accident or some other personal injury setting, you should not make quick decisions about settling your case with an insurance adjuster. You need to know how badly you have been injured before making decisions like that – and it simply isn’t possible to know that right away.

So what types of tests are available to determine the severity of a brain injury?

As we noted in our article on traumatic brain injuries, the traditional methods of testing for brain injuries have involved CT and MRI scans. These tests scan for damage such as blood pooling and bruising in the brain.

Keep in mind, however, that these traditional scans do not necessarily detect all forms of TBI. For example, brain damage that occurs at the cellular level may not show up in CT scans or MRI tests.

There is a newer test called a positron emission topography (PET) test that researchers are experimenting with. This test is intended to get a better sense of what is going on within the brain at the cellular level.

Our point is that there are no easy answers when it comes to determining the extent of a brain injury. There is no Dr. McCoy to provide the answer with one wave of a tricorder.

People who have suffered such injuries should therefore make sure the injuries are thoroughly checked out and treated to the extent possible and get appropriate legal representation when pursuing injury claims.

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