In an interview with Attorney Gary Martin Hays, founder and chief education officer Dr. Chris Connelly of BrainCussion explained how he uses best practices to diagnose and treat patients who have suffered a brain injury. Edits have been made for clarity.
Chris Connelly has been practicing medicine for almost 25 years, treating thousands of spinal injury patients. During this time, he noticed many of his patients also suffered from brain injuries, but there was a lack of proper protocol in place to recognize their symptoms.
So he took the next logical step and became certified through the CDC, the American Brain Institute of America, and other organizations to develop best practices for early identification of brain injuries. He founded BrainCussion as a way to help his injured patients recover faster.
Dr. Connelly says so far the results have been “phenomenal.”
“My patients just love the access to care, the ease of use, and the recommendations provided through BrainCussion.”
Brain Injury Symptoms
A traumatic brain injury can be caused by a bump, jolt, or blow to the head. There are many different physiological reasons why the brain develops an injury and the symptoms that come with it.
Symptoms will vary from person to person. Many of his patients’ primary symptom is not feeling like themselves.
“They feel foggy, they feel confused, they're scared, they have anxiety, and they have a lot of other issues,” Dr. Connelly said. “These may include loss of consciousness, headaches, confusion, dizziness, ringing in the ears, neck pain, and sleep problems.”
He also pointed out that many experts have identified over 100 different symptoms that could originate from a brain injury.
Symptoms can last several weeks or longer. Sometimes the effects of a concussion can persist and become a chronic issue.
Even if symptoms subside and go away, study after study shows that neurodegeneration remains an issue long after the brain injury has healed. According to Dr. Connelly, no matter what type of injury to the brain a person experiences — mild, moderate, or severe — it is always serious.
Signs of Brain Injury After a Car Accident
Car crashes are the third-leading cause of traumatic brain injuries. Airbag deployment or the head striking an object or against part of the car can easily cause a concussion.
Sometimes, though, the person doesn’t have to hit their head — the force of the collision is enough to injure the brain by shaking it around inside the skull.
Dr. Connelly said many times the patients he sees after a car accident “seem off.” They miss appointments, miss calls, become easily emotional, and struggle to fill out basic forms.
“We've actually had them sit in the office… and they throw up. We'd have problems where they weren't even able to make it to the back exam room because they can't even walk that far.” Sometimes his patients are unable to drive, so he performs their exams via telemed services.
A Silent Epidemic
The CDC refers to concussions as a silent epidemic that is underdiagnosed. One study found that 56% of people who are later diagnosed with a concussion are missed at the ER.
An entry diagnosis soon after a brain injury occurs is pivotal, explained Dr. Connelly, because it means healthcare workers can reduce the symptoms as quickly as possible.
He believes that once awareness increases about brain injuries that more patients will get the proper care they need.
An Alarming Study of 350,000 Veterans
A recent landmark study was published in the American Medical Association Journal. After following 350,000 military personnel who suffered mild traumatic brain injuries, researchers found that they had a two-times increased risk of dementia later in life.
“It shows that a brain injury, although the symptoms may reduce or even resolve, that the neurodegenerative process can go on for the remainder of the person's life. So the more accurately we help with healing of the brain… the better prognosis the patient has going forward,” Dr. Connelly said.
He hopes studies like this encourage his colleagues in the medical community to accurately assess and use early treatment protocols for traumatic brain injuries.
What Needs to Change
The biggest issue is that traumatic brain injuries are being missed. They may go undiagnosed for months or years.
“The main purpose of BrainCussion is to create awareness among both healthcare providers and the public that TBI is a real event that needs to be identified early on to give the patient the best possible chance,” he explained.
Early detection has proven the best way to resolve symptoms and help the brain heal. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of a traumatic brain injury gives the patient hope and the tools they need for a healthier outcome.
Dr. Connelly urges providers to talk with patients about concrete things that can help the healing process (such as lifestyle adjustments, medicines, and exercise) and what activities will hinder it (i.e., returning to work too soon, smoking, and stress).
“I've had patients before that had work injuries. They had a TBI, the doctor didn't recognize it, and the patient was back at work on a ladder and fell off the ladder because they had vertigo and dizziness,” Dr. Connelly said. “They had a repeat brain injury.”
When the patient realizes that they have a problem, the treating physician can give them the tools to accurately manage it. But that cannot happen if the injured person doesn’t realize what is wrong.
MRI and CT Scans Often Miss Concussions
About 95% of MRI or CT scans don’t detect mild traumatic brain injuries because there is no internal bleeding. Patients then make the false assumption that everything is fine.
During a concussion, damage occurs at a microscopic level. In other words, the damaged neurons are too small to see on a scan. The technology is not there yet.
What to Do If You Suspect a Concussion
Go to the ER right away, urged Dr. Connelly, or see a medical doctor as soon as possible if your symptoms do not seem life-threatening. He emphasized that patients aren’t complaining or whining when they talk about their symptoms.
“The worst thing would be if you go to a doctor and don't tell them what's really wrong with you.” Doctors need to know all the symptoms a person has to accurately diagnose and treat them.
How BrainCussion Works
In many clinics, a patient is unable to see a neuropsychiatrist or physiatrist for several weeks or more. With BrainCussion, a patient can often see a provider within 24-48 hours, usually via telemed services.
During the neurological examination, the doctor talks to the patient to determine what subtype of concussion they are suffering from and go over best practices for the patient at home. Follow-up care is also provided.
Patients also take the ImPACT test, which takes about 30 minutes to an hour. Based on that test and the doctor’s clinical evaluation, they will receive recommendations for a treatment plan. Dr. Connelly considers the ImPACT test “the most reliable gold standard test throughout the United States.”
Overall, his patients love the quick access to care that they receive. “I think telehealth is the future. It gives more patients access to both affordable care and some of the best doctors in the industry when it comes to TBIs.”
If a healthcare provider wants to become a strategic partner with BrainCussion, they can go to BrainCussion.com and fill out the request form. Patients can also fill out the contact form to set up an appointment.
Have you suffered a concussion or traumatic brain injury after a crash? Talk to our experienced brain injury lawyers at Gary Martin Hays & Associates to discuss your case. We help injured victims get the best neurological care possible while protecting their personal injury claims from the insurance company. Call (770) 934-8000 for a free consultation.