Head injuries are very common, including among kids, so it’s crucial for an MRI to show a head injury.
However, this isn’t always the case — in that this technology doesn’t always show trauma to the brain.
“An MRI is very sensitive in picking up markers of head injury,” says Farhan Siddiq, MD, a neurosurgeon with University of Missouri Health Care.
Those markers include:
• Midline shift (the middle dividing line of the brain is off-kilter)
Dr. Siddiq continues, “However, sometimes mild concussion or minor head injuries may not show any changes on an MRI.”
This is why it’s vital for the patient to be frequently monitored for signs of neurological damage, which would consist of worsening of symptoms that occurred immediately after or soon after the trauma, as well as new-onset symptoms.
Symptoms of a Head Injury
• Headache — especially one that’s getting worse.
• Vomiting, particularly if the vomitus is in a projectile path.
• Increasing drowsiness, ESPECIALLY if it’s difficult to arouse the patient.
• Cognitive changes, confusion
Usually a patient is given a CT scan when a head injury is suspected. A CT scan delivers faster results than does an MRI, but it also delivers radiation which can be of concern to the parent or patient.
The MRI takes longer than the CT scan but is far more sensitive at detecting signs of a head injury.
People over age 65 are more likely to sustain an injury to their brain from seemingly slight impact to their head, when compared to younger people.
When a head injury causes slow bleeding in the brain that occurs weeks after the accident, this is called a chronic subdural hematoma.
These are far more common in the elderly population than in the middle aged.
Common symptoms, in addition to headache, include confusion and weakness on one side of the body.
Like an MRI, it’s also possible for a CT scan to miss signs of a head injury.
Dr. Siddiq is fellowship-trained in endovascular surgical neuroradiology and vascular neurology from the University of Minnesota Medical Center. His areas of special focus also include brain aneurysms and carotid disease.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.