Types of Brain Injuries and Brain Scans: Sorting Through the Confusion

Why do people react so strongly to bruises? Why is the sight of blood enough to make some cry with empathy? One of the main reasons is because both bruising and blood are external signs of someone’s pain. They can be seen, evaluated for their severity, and immediately assessed for the amount of sympathy the injury warrants.

But what happens when your injury is not as visible as a bruise or bleeding? Or not visible at all? How do people know you’re in pain; how do they judge its severity; and how do you convince them? In the past, this has always posed a problem for plaintiffs in a personal injury case. When it comes to brain injuries, this point of concern is especially difficult.

Types of Brain Injuries

79% of brain injuries in the US are caused by an accident, slip or trip and fall, assault by another person, or being struck in the head due to the negligence of others [1]. But, what are the types of injuries you could sustain as a result of these incidents? There are many different kinds, ranging in levels of severity, but here are some of the most common types and their causes:

  • Concussion, the most common type of brain injury, can be caused by direct blows to the head, gunshot wounds, violent shaking, or force, such as whiplash from a car accident. Concussions are the result of the blood vessels in the brain stretching and/or cranial nerves being damaged. The results can be temporary or permanent with healing times ranging from a few months to a few years to never.
  • Contusions are caused by sudden impact to the brain and result in bruising (bleeding) of the brain. Contusions can sometimes recede on their own or cause massive pressure on the brain requiring surgery.
  • Coup-Contrecoup can be thought of two different injuries resulting from the same incident (contre/contra means opposite). In this type of injury, the head is impacted on one side, but the force is great enough to cause the brain to slam against the other side of the skull, resulting in a secondary injury. It’s a bit like if your car gets T-boned and the force slams it against a wall. The car would have damage from the initial car-to-car impact, but also from the resulting impact with the wall.
  • Diffuse Axonal injuries, like the concussion, are common in car accidents and are a result of force. What makes it different, is that a diffuse axonal injury is caused by strong rotational forces like those from Shaken Baby Syndrome or from a severe car accident. The injury occurs when the unmoving brain lags behind the movement of the skull, causing severe brain structure tearing.
  • Penetration brain injuries are exactly what they sounds like, a brain injury from an object entering the skull. Although gunshot wounds are the most common, this type of injury can happen in other ways, like during an accident. [2]

Levels of Brain Injury

There are also different levels of brain injury, measured on what’s called a Glasgow Coma Scale, which the medical community uses to standardize severity.

  • Mild Traumatic Brain Injury ranges from 13-15 on the scale. People with these types of injuries usually lose consciousness from a few seconds to a few minutes.
  • Moderate Traumatic Brain Injury ranges from 9-12 on the scale. People with moderate brain injuries usually make a good recovery with treatment or successfully learn to compensate for their deficits.
  • Severe Brain Injuries result from crushing blows or penetrating wounds and usually require serious, emergency medical attention to prevent death. [3]

Diagnosing a Brain Injury

There are lots of different types of brain scans available in the medical world. As a patient, all the acronyms flying around can be a bit daunting. There’s so many letters that it can begin to feel a bit like kindergarten all over again. Trying to sort through them all, especially while you and your family are going through an injury or accident, can be tough. So here is a quick guide to a few of the scans you may come across when addressing your medical needs:

Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI is an image of the brain captured with a tunnel-shaped scanner. The patient lies on a table that slides into the scanner, where a magnetic field surrounds the head. The magnetic field then generates an image of the brain with the help of computer software.

There are different types of MRIs available:

  • Flow-Sensitive, or FS MRI– In addition to traditional MRIs, FS MRIs also examine the cerebrospinal fluid flow.
  • Functional, or fMRI– This version is quicker and less expensive than the more traditional type. These scans are used to tell which parts of the brain control important functions.
  • Dynamic MRI– Advances in technology have made MRIs even more accurate with this type of imaging. In this scan, a dye is injected to produce clearer images.
  • MRI Angiography, or MRA– These scans use a quick series of images to follow the blood flow through the brain. [4]

Positron Emission Tomography, or PET scan– This imaging technique uses tiny amounts of a radioactive material to map the brain’s functional activity. As the material undergoes radioactive decay, the PET equipment can detect it. Areas with high radioactivity are associated with high brain activity, and vice-versa. [5]

  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging, or DTI– Created from MRI technology, DTI is more accurate at showing damage to the white matter of the brain. This information is crucial in understanding certain brain injuries. [6]
  • Diffusion Weighted Imaging, or DWI– This is a more precise form of DTI, which can also determine and examine different issues with the brain. Some of the injuries DWIs detect are strokes, cysts, tumors, and axonal injuries. [7]
  • Susceptibility Weighted Imaging, or SWI– This scan is particularly sensitive to compounds that disrupt magnetic fields, like those elements found in blood. For this reason, SWIs are helpful in finding and examining blood hemorrhages. [8]
  • Computed Tomography, or CT scans (commonly called CAT scans)- This scanning technique uses hundreds of simultaneous x-rays, combined by a computer, to form a complete picture of the brain. Head injuries, severe headaches, dizziness, aneurysms, bleeding, stroke, brain cancer, and brain tumors can all be evaluated with this flexible option. [9]
  •  Intracranial pressure, or ICP, monitoring- This brain monitoring technique analyzes pressure on the brain. Pressure within the skull may increase from swelling of the brain, causing additional damage besides the initial injury. This swelling may be monitored by the insertion of a probe through the skull. A drain or shunt may also be placed in the skull to relieve the pressure. [10]

Dolman Law Group has a team of experienced brain injury lawyers who have successfully recovered substantial cash settlements for victims of traumatic brain injuries. If you, or someone you care about, suffered a traumatic brain injury, do not hire a law firm that will let you go through life without enough money to live on. Hire a law firm that knows what your injury is truly worth, Dolman Law Group. We don’t just settle—we win! Call today at 727-451-6900 for a free consultation.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 451-6900



1. https://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/pdf/bluebook_factsheet-a.pdf
2. https://biau.org/types-and-levels-of-brain-injury/
3. http://www.glasgowcomascale.org/
4. http://www.abta.org/brain-tumor-information/diagnosis/types-of-brain-scans.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/
5. http://psychcentral.com/lib/types-of-brain-imaging-techniques/
6. http://www.braininjury.com/brain-injury-diffusion-tensor-imaging.shtml
7. http://radiopaedia.org/articles/diffusion-weighted-imaging-1
8. http://radiopaedia.org/articles/susceptibility-weighted-imaging-1
9. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=headct
10. https://www.dolmanlaw.com/traumatic-brain-injury-rehabilitation-recovery/

By: Jordan Puckett