Traumatic Brain Injuries Routinely Overlooked in Emergency Rooms

By Paul Mitchell, Q.C.
Categories: Blog, Brain Injury

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates at least 1.7 million people suffer brain injuries each year in the USA. A large percentage of traumatic brain injuries go undiagnosed and untreated, particularly in hospital emergency rooms. According to a recent University of Washington study, 56 percent of mild traumatic brain injuries went undiagnosed in emergency room visits.

The study found that as many as 80 percent of all adults with a traumatic brain injury are discharged the same day without being admitted to the hospital.

The study also reasoned that emergency rooms often focus on ruling out severe brain injuries through imaging, and do not thoroughly screen for brain injuries with negative imaging results and injuries with no reported loss of consciousness. These facts do not rule out a brain injury.

According to the CDC, negative imaging results in CT scans and MRIs also do not rule out brain injuries. In addition the University of Washington study says that brain injury victims often deny simple questions regarding loss of consciousness, but then confirm brain injury symptoms by recapping events that note memory gaps or periods of confusion.

Many patients with severe orthopedic injuries also suffer from overlooked brain injuries. Despite the lack of initial diagnoses, many suffer from long-term, life-altering impairments.

The key root word in “traumatic brain injury” is “trauma.” Brain injury specialists explain that brain injury victims have actual physical damage to the brain. Brain injuries have a litany of symptoms, which include headaches, fatigue, depression, anxiety, irritability, ringing in the ears, sensitivity to light, mood swings, changes in vision, slow or foggy thinking, and cognitive impairment. These symptoms present in a variety of combinations.

Without an initial traumatic brain injury diagnosis, victims are not appropriately monitored and treated.

The University of Washington study notes that undiagnosed brain injuries have clinical consequences. It is important for patients to be aware of brain injury symptoms, to continue to monitor the presence of symptoms even if a brain injury is not initially diagnosed, and immediately seek medical help if brain injury symptoms present

For a list of common brain injury symptoms, see the Brain Injury Symptoms Form here: Brain Injury Symptoms Form.

It is vitally important for anyone sustaining a possible brain injury or concussion realize what their symptoms are, and let their health care providers know as soon as possible. This will do two things. It will allow their health care providers to properly treat their symptoms. It will also ensure the symptoms are properly recorded in their doctors medical charts.


Paul Mitchell, Q.C. is a BC personal injury lawyer who has extensive experience with brain injury claims. He has settled many multi-million dollar brain injury claims. He acts for the brain injured all over BC, and will not act for ICBC or any other insurance company.

Paul was a founding Director of BrainTrust Canada (Central Okanagan Brain Injury Society), and was on their board for over 25 years. He has presented at numerous brain injury conferences, including the Okanagan Conference on Brain Injury, and the BC Brain Injury Conference in Vancouver. He is also the author of many articles and publications on brain injury.

For more information on brain injuries, or for a confidential discussion of your brain injury claim, contact Paul Mitchell, Q.C. at 250-869-1115 (direct line), or send him a confidential email at mitchell@pushormitchell.com.