Why You May Need a CT Scan After a Head Injury

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Head injuries are no laughing matter. These injuries to the scalp, skull, and/or brain are caused by some form of trauma — like a car accident, a sports accident, or a fall — and can be quite serious. The most common type of sports-related brain injury is a concussion. An estimated 1.6-3.8 million concussions occur from playing sports each year.

A concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI). It occurs when the brain is shaken hard enough to bounce against the hard shell of the skull. It can happen when two people collide, as in football, when you’re hit with a piece of equipment such as a baseball bat, or in normal play such as when you “head” the ball in soccer.

Concussions, which account for about 75% of TBIs, alter a person’s mental status and can interrupt the brain’s normal functioning. While most resolve on their own, multiple concussions can have a cumulative effect, making each worse than the one before.

Trusted ER, a 24-hour concierge-style emergency room practice with locations in Dallas, Coppell, Hurst, Irving, and Sherman, Texas, is no stranger to head injuries. Each center is fully equipped with a radiology department that can perform X-rays, CT scans, and ultrasounds to aid in diagnosis and treatment of injuries, including TBIs.

What is a CT scan?

CT or CAT scan is more formally known as computed tomography. It’s a type of diagnostic medical imaging test. While traditional X-rays only show bone and some gross structures, a CT scan is more sensitive and can produce multiple, cross-sectional images of body structures. The images are taken as you lie on a table and the tech moves you in and out of a space in the center of the large device. Having a CT scan is completely painless.

One advantage of a CT’s images is that they’re reformatted in multiple planes and compiled into three-dimensional images. These images are easily viewed on a computer screen. They can be printed on film or by a 3D printer; and they can be transferred to a CD or DVD so you can show the images to your primary doctor or any specialist you need to see at a later time.

Why should you get a CT scan after a head injury?

If you’ve had a head injury, it’s important that the doctor can see if you have any internal injuries, skull fractures, or brain bleeds that might require immediate attention. CT images can show bones, internal organs, soft tissues, and blood vessels in much greater detail than regular X-rays, particularly for soft tissues and blood vessels.

While not as sensitive — or as costly — as a magnetic resonance imaging test (MRI), a CT scan is usually the best test to have first if the doctor suspects you have a skull fracture or a brain bleed. It’s an extremely common test after a car accident, since you might not feel symptoms from the injury right away.

Possible symptoms of a skull fracture or brain bleed include:

  • Weakness on either side of your body
  • Trouble speaking, swallowing, or hearing
  • Difficulty seeing
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Severe headache
  • One pupil larger than the other
  • Fluid or blood coming from an ear or the nose

Not all head injuries require a CT scan. If your doctor thinks you have a mild concussion, for example, a CT scan probably won’t show anything out of the ordinary.

When should you see a doctor?

If you’ve had a car accident, a fall, or any other type of injury where you may have injured your head, you should definitely see a doctor, as your symptoms may not show up immediately. Only a medical professional can determine the extent of your injury and whether a CT scan is warranted.

Trusted ER is open 24 hours a day and welcomes anyone who needs help. Call any of our six locations, contact us via our online form, or if you’ve had an accident, just come in.