Traumatic Brain Injury Myth #3: A Normal MRI or CT Scan Means No Brain Injury

by John McKiggan

Microscopic Injuries

Mild traumatic brain injury is an injury to the tissues of the brain that happens at the microscopic level. Typically the axons of the brain are sheared or damaged so that they can no longer properly transmit impulses throughout the brain.

Common Diagnostic Tools

The most common diagnostic tool used to detect injury or damage to the soft tissues of the body is the CT scan. A CT scan, sometimes called a CAT scan, is a non-invasive scan that combines special x-ray equipment with computer technology to produce images of the inside of the body. The CT scan produces “slices” or cross sectional images of the area that is being scanned which can then be examined or interpreted on a computer monitor.

A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is a more sensitive test to detect damage or injury to the soft tissues of the body.

Detects Macroscopic Injuries

Unfortunately, both CT and MRI scans can only detect macroscopic injuries. In other words, injuries that can be seen by the naked eye.

What that means, is that the two most common diagnostic tools used by doctors to detect brain injury are not sensitive enough to actually detect the microscopic effects of mild traumatic brain injury!

In the textbook Neuropsychiatry of Traumatic Brain Injury, the authors state:

“Many patients with a history of “minor” brain injury will not have abnormalities on their MRI, yet can manifest clear evidence of functional impairment on neuropsychological measures.”

The authors of this textbook point to the old medical saying:

“Absence of proof is not proof of absence”.

In other words, just because you can’t see any evidence of brain injury on a CT scan or MRI scan, does not mean that the injury isn’t there.

I have had many clients whose mild traumatic brain injury were missed by emergency room personnel or their family doctors because a proper medical history wasn’t taken or because they simply didn’t pay close enough attention to the symptoms of brain injury that their patient was exhibiting or complaining of during their examination.

In my view, the only way to conclusively rule out the possibility of a mild traumatic brain injury is through a comprehensive neuropsychological examination in order to determine whether or not the person is exhibiting any cognitive deficits which may have been caused by a traumatic brain injury.

If you or a family member have suffered an injury which you think may have resulted in a mild traumatic brain injury and you are looking for a Nova Scotia brain injury lawyer you can contact me through this blog or by calling toll free 1 (877) 891-1664 for a free copy of my book: The Survivor’s Guide to Traumatic Brain Injury Claims.

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