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  • Overview

    Survey indicates just how complex and subtle the consequences of head injury can be

    In a recent survey, eighty five percent of brain injury specialists did not fully appreciate that acceleration or deceleration forces – experienced for example when a car comes to a sudden stop - need last only one fifth of one second to trigger traumatic brain injury. This finding emerged from research conducted by Thomson Snell & Passmore’s leading personal injury team at their annual brain injury lecture.

    The survey, undertaken by an audience of 70 leading clinicians, therapists, support workers and professionals working in the brain injury sector in the South East, provided an important insight into how many patients who have suffered injuries can remain undiagnosed.  Led by consultant neurologist Dr Steven Allder, the lecture addressed why so many individuals go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

    The event also highlighted further key concerns in the sector, such as:

    • 73% of delegates did not appreciate that, following traumatic brain injury, the risk of dementia increased four-fold.
    • 77% did not know that traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder can make each other worse.
    • Just over half (53%) of delegates knew that traumatic brain injury can occur in patients with no loss of consciousness.

    Dr Allder explained that he has three key concerns about the treatment of brain injuries in the UK. Firstly, it is actually uncommon for neurologists to see patients who have suffered traumatic brain injuries.  Patients generally report to their GP or A&E after accidents but the structure of the NHS is such that few have the opportunity to be assessed by a neurologist.   For those that are, accurate diagnosis is not guaranteed as many lack the experience required to identify the more subtle presentations.

    There is also a serious concern around awareness that the majority of brain injuries most commonly arise out of acceleration/deceleration forces on the brain rather than blows to the head. Injuries can therefore result from very brief, at times seemingly innocuous, events which could easily be dismissed.

    Finally, even the most sophisticated MRI machines have a sensitivity of just 20%, which means that scans identify only 20% of patients who have suffered diffuse axonal injury (i.e. the damage resulting from the brain moving back and forth in the skull as a result of acceleration or deceleration forces). It is the most common traumatic brain injury.  Therefore, a MRI scan showing a ‘normal’ reading does not mean that a patient has no injury, but without clear evidence of damage on imaging it seems that some clinicians are reluctant to diagnose on the basis of behavioural changes alone.

    Jonathan Clement, Partner in the Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence team at Thomson Snell & Passmore says of the findings:

    “Many of the symptoms of traumatic brain injuries are hard to recognise. It is vital for individuals and accident victims to be aware of the possibility of previously undiagnosed injury.  After accidents, the diagnosis can have a profound affect.  It can be shocking, but also bring relief to a family or individual as explanation for the changes they have suffered. Our findings clearly highlight the importance of bringing awareness to both the healthcare sector and the public of the diversity of traumatic brain injury and continued work to prevent misdiagnosis.”

    For more information contact:

    Natalie Cush, Byfield Consultancy, or 020 7092 3980.
    Jenna Cooper, Thomson Snell & Passmore,  or (0)1892 701302

    Notes to editors:
    Thomson Snell & Passmore LLP

    • Thomson Snell & Passmore LLP is one of the largest firms in the South East outside London with more than 200 people including over 100 lawyers advising private individuals, directors, PLCs, subsidiaries of overseas companies, SMEs, owner managed businesses, housing associations, local authorities and charities.
    • We are ranked by the leading independent guides to UK law firms in 29 specialist practice areas and are proud to have in our teams 25 lawyers recognised as “leaders in their field”.
    • With offices in Tunbridge Wells and Thames Gateway the firm has earned a reputation over generations for continuously aligning itself with clients’ ever changing needs, providing intelligent and practical legal advice and delivering exceptional client service.
    • The commercial group provides advice on mergers and acquisitions, commercial contracts, employment law, dispute resolution and to those involved in land acquisition, development, planning and construction.
    • The firm’s private client group is one of the largest in the South East offering leading expertise in property, family, tax planning, trust management, Court of Protection, probate, clinical negligence and personal injury.


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