Why Is Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Hard to Diagnose?

Making a connection between social and academic challenges and a past TBI can be crucial for a child's success.

Well, in Canada we like to call TBI--we clump it all in with acquired brain injury and don't make quite the same differentiation, but in terms of TBI or traumatic brain injury, the most oftentimes misdiagnosed are the mild ones. Most people can recognize when a child's totally in a coma and unresponsive that--hey, maybe there's a brain injury here. Whereas the ones who have been injured in a mild brain injury are often not recognized and misdiagnosed. That would probably be particularly true if you were in a car accident, and you had a mild brain injury but you fractured your legs and your pelvis and a couple other things; they are not going to see the mild brain injury. They are going to be concentrating on the other injuries, and it's not--often for about a year or two before things have sufficiently gone downhill that somebody says, "I wonder whether they had a brain injury at the time." So, it's important, because without recognizing that the person has had a brain injury and informing the family, putting in the supports around that are needed, talking to the school so that the school can modify what they are going to do to interact with the person, the child just loses their ability to stay on top of things and go forward as quickly as they would have. They fall a bit behind their peers. The behaviors start to come up, and then that's when, I say, the wheels come off. People start to think, "Oh." So that's why it's important.
Posted on BrainLine June 8, 2010.

Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough and Brian King, BrainLine.

About the author: Jane Gillett, MD

Dr. Jane Gillett was a neurologist certified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in both pediatric and adult neurology. She created and developed the Pediatric Acquired Brain Injury Community Outreach Program, Children’s Hospital of Western Ontario. She died in 2011.

Dr. Jane Gillett