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What does the Glasgow Coma Scale mean for a brain injury?

Brain injuries run the gamut from mild to severe, but it may not always be obvious initially how severe a person's injury is. When a Texan suffers a head injury, it is important to clarify as soon as possible how severe the injury is, and then determine how to treat it.

One way that a traumatic brain injury is gauged is through the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS). This simple and reliable test of a person's consciousness provides a way to interpret the severity of a brain injury. It measures both initial and later consciousness levels, and is often performed immediately following car accidents or sports injuries.

The GCS measures three main categories: eye opening, verbal response and motor response. Each category is given a numerical level, and the sum of these numbers is a person's GCS score. The higher the score, the less severe the injury. A score of three, the minimum score possible, means a very severe injury and a score of 15, the maximum score, indicates a mild brain injury. For example, a person who scores a one in each of the three categories will display no eye opening ability, no verbal response and no motor response. A score of nine, with a three in each category, would suggest a moderate brain injury, with eye opening in response to another's voice, the ability to speak, but with incoherent words, and abnormal posture that may include some rigidity.

The GCS does have limitations, and factors such as shock, low blood oxygen or drug or alcohol use could affect a person's level of consciousness and therefore skew the test results.

The level of severity of a person's brain injury may determine the course of treatment and importantly, the potential long-term consequences. Therefore, this initial gage of severity can be very informative for a brain injury victim.

Source:, "What is the Glasgow Coma Scale?," accessed Aug. 7, 2015

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