Why Do Doctors Have Trouble Detecting Brain Injuries in Children?

Children are injured every day doing normal activities—playing their favorite sports, climbing on a play structure at the park, and skateboarding or rollerblading. While injuries can range in severity, one of the most serious for children is a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and can often be missed by doctors.

Reasons That Brain Injuries Go Undetected in Children

The following are three main reasons doctors have trouble detecting brain injuries in children or miss them all together:

  1. Failing to understand the brain’s hypermetabolic state after a TBI. When the brain is injured, it tries to protect itself by increasing the rate of metabolic activity. This is marked by an increase in glucose production and increased energy expenditure. When this occurs, brain injury symptoms may be masked during a gross neurological examination. If a doctor doesn’t conduct further testing, such as a PET scan, the doctor can fail to diagnose a child’s brain injury.
  2. Failing to believe a child could suffer a serious brain injury. Many doctors dismiss the idea that a child suffered a serious injury to the brain after a fall or participation in a sporting event. Because children fall down and get injured frequently, many doctors assume their falls aren’t hard enough to cause trauma to the brain. As a result, they fail to conduct the proper diagnostic tests.
  3. Failing to detect brain injury symptoms in children. Many brain injury symptoms aren’t noticeable right away, which is why doctors should inform victims and their parents to watch for them. Possible brain injury symptoms include headaches, vomiting, nausea, extreme tiredness, and memory and concentration issues. While early detection of brain injury symptoms may be difficult because children have difficulties articulating them, doctors should make follow-up appointments and conduct thorough examinations of anyone—especially children—who suffered trauma to the head. When doctors fail to do this, brain injuries can go untreated.

In addition, doctors sometimes misdiagnose brain injuries as other conditions. And when brain injuries go undiagnosed, treatment is delayed. When traumatic brain injuries don’t receive immediate medical care and treatment, victims have difficulties making complete recoveries. Also, when diagnostic delays occur, insurance companies may fight this type of insurance claim.

If your child has suffered a TBI that wasn’t diagnosed in a timely manner or was misdiagnosed by a doctor, learn about filing a medical malpractice claim. To learn about your legal rights, call us for a free, no-obligation consultation at (703) 591-0067.