Diagnosing a severe head injury
If you have had a severe head injury and there's a chance you may have a brain injury, you'll have a CT scan to assess the seriousness of the injury.
The Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) is often used to assess head injuries. This is a scale from 3 to 15 that identifies how serious your head injury is, based on your symptoms and whether the brain has been damaged (with 3 being most severe and 15 the least severe).
A GCS score of 13 or above would indicate a minor head injury. A score of 9 to 12 would be a moderate head injury.
If a person has a severe head injury, they'll have a score of 8 or less.
Some people with significant head injuries have a high GCS score initially, but their score decreases when they're reassessed at a later stage.
If you have a severe head injury, you'll be closely monitored and frequently reassessed to check your condition.
Treating a severe head injury
Severe head injuries always require hospital treatment.
This may involve:
- observing the condition for any changes
- running tests to check for further damage
- treating any other injuries
- breathing support (ventilation) or brain surgery
Most people are able to go home within 48 hours. But a small number of those admitted to hospital require skull or brain surgery.
When you're discharged from hospital, your doctor will advise you on the best way to help your recovery when you return home.
A severe head injury can result in pressure being placed on the brain because of bleeding, blood clots or a build-up of fluid.
This can sometimes lead to brain damage, which can be temporary or permanent.
A severe head injury can also cause other potentially serious complications, including:
- an infection after a skull fracture
- impaired consciousness
- brain injury
Preventing head injuries
It can be difficult to predict or avoid a head injury, but there are some things you can do to reduce the risk of serious injury.
- ensuring your home (or those of elderly relatives) are free of trip hazards that could cause a fall, such as loose carpets or unnecessary items on the floor
- childproofing your home – for example, by ensuring young children can't reach windows or balconies
- using the right safety equipment for work, sport and DIY
Wearing a safety helmet during certain activities, such as skiing or cycling, may also help to prevent a serious head injury.