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UAB Researchers Find Traumatic Brain Injury Affects Medical Decision Making

Apr 12, 2012 | Personal Injury

Brain trauma due to an accident or injury, may result in a concussion which affects your mental ability for an extended period of time, according to recent research, says Alabama traumatic brain injury attorney Keith T. Belt.

A blow to the head can cause traumatic brain injury. One of the worries from this type of injury is the loss of ability to make decisions — especially decisions about the medical care a patient needs as he or she recovers.

In a paper published Wednesday in Neurology, UAB researchers have tested traumatic brain injury patients for their medical decision-making ability. They have found “that capacity is clearly impaired in patients with traumatic brain injury shortly after injury and needs to be considered both by clinicians and researchers,” said author Daniel Marson, a professor of neurology and director of the division of neuropsychology and the Alzheimer’s Disease Center. “What makes head injury so interesting, is capacity may be lost in an instant, but the trajectory of recovery is slow. We are starting to delineate the natural history of the recovery of decision making.”

Most of the traumatic brain injury patients in the study had been in motor vehicle accidents (including cars, motorcycles, and ATVs) also some bicycle accidents, a few bar fights and some falls down stairs. Patients were divided into groups by the severity of traumatic brain injury.

Measures of severity include how long they were unconscious after a blow to the head, the duration of post-traumatic amnesia, their clinical scores in a neurological screen like the Glasgow Coma Scale, and abnormalities in brain imaging scans.

The brain is a soft mass, Marson said. A blow may cause injury near the impact point (the coup), at the place opposite the impact point where the soft brain rebounds against the skull (the counter-coup), or as a general injury throughout the brain caused by microscopic shearing.

The UAB team tested the ability of patients to make medical decisions by giving them two scenarios of a hypothetical medical problem — one cancer and the other heart disease — along with treatment options and their relative risks.

Then the patients were quizzed by trained research assistants to find out whether they could express a treatment choice, appreciate the personal consequences of that choice, give a rational explanation for their choice, and show that they understood the different treatments and their relative risks and benefits. All of these interviews were audiotaped and transcribed for scoring accuracy.

The UAB researchers found that patients with mild traumatic brain injury were largely intact in medical decision making one month after injury, though a subset of that group continued to have an impairment. Patients in two groups with more severe injury were significantly impaired.

Consult the Alabama Traumatic Brain Injury Attorneys at Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C. Today

If you or a loved one were injured in a devastating accident which resulted in a moderate or severe traumatic brain injury, call the traumatic brain injury attorneys from Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C. at (205) 933-1500 or use our online form. We offer a case evaluation free of charge and are ready to help you obtain full compensation for your losses. With offices in Birmingham, Mobile, Huntsville, and Montgomery, our attorneys will quickly travel to investigate your case.