How do we know how bad the head injury is?

How do we know how bad the head injury is?

A survivor’s degree of consciousness is often used to determine the severity of his/her brain injury. Instruments such as the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) use the survivor’s visual, motor, and verbal responsiveness to measure level of consciousness. A copy of the GCS can be found in our Glossary section. Scores of 8 or below are considered to represent a true coma (no eye opening, no response to simple commands, and unable to communicate) and to indicate a severe brain injury. Scores from 9 – 12 on the GCS are suggestive of a moderate brain injury. GCS scores of 13 and above are thought to indicate that the brain injury is mild.

The duration or length of coma (LOC) is also used to measure severity of injury and to predict outcome. The longer the LOC, the more severe the brain injury. LOC greater than 6 hours post-admission is considered to be a severe brain injury. LOC between 20 minutes and 6 hours post-admission is considered to be moderate brain injury. LOC of less than 20 minutes is considered to be indicative of a mild brain injury.


The extent of survivor recovery is based on the severity of the head injury. The more severe the injury, the greater the liklihood that the survivor will be unable to reach his/her preinjury level of functioning. Significant others will need to be patient because the magnitude of recovery may not be known for some time. Most researchers believe that meaningful spontaneous (natural) recovery is possible 1 -to 2-years postinjury. In addition, there are many studies demonstrating the neuropsychological rehabilitation can improve recovery many years after a head injury.

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