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Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries: Where You Treat Can Make All the Difference

Posted December 09, 2016

By Jonathan Karon

I make it a rule not to intervene in my client’s medical treatment decisions. The most important thing is for clients to get the best medical care they can and recover from their injuries as fully as possible. I usually encourage them to consult with their primary care physician and do what they would do to get better if there were no lawsuit. The one situation I sometimes make an exception is where someone may have suffered a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI).

Unfortunately I’ve learned, there’s striking difference in the quality of care provided to MTBI patients at different Boston area hospitals and by different doctors. There are some very good institutions in our area. Both Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and Braintree Rehabilitation Hospital have good reputations for diagnosing and treating mild traumatic brain injuries. On the other hand, some of my clients have been mis-diagnosed, under-treated or in at least one instance ended up with a neurologist who doesn’t seem to believe that there is such a thing as a mild traumatic brain injury.

My first MTBI client initially treated at a suburban hospital where she was diagnosed with a conversion disorder (sometimes also called a somatoform disorder) a psychological condition in which underlying conflicts are experienced as physical symptoms. This diagnosis was made without the benefit of any neuropsychological testing and was apparently based solely on the nature and persistence of my client’s symptoms. Fortunately, my client changed physicians, and, after neuropsychological testing, was accurately diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury. She was accepted into the Statewide Head Injury Program of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission where a truly outstanding counselor referred her for treatment which substantially improved her quality of life.

Another client had been diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury, by both her primary care physician and a treating neurologist. She suffered from both severe headaches and cognitive impairments due to her MTBI. On her own, she sought a second opinion from a neurologist at a prominent Boston hospital. Based on one visit, this neurologist attributed her symptoms in large part to her on-going lawsuit and unspecified emotional losses.

It was only after my client saw this neurologist, that I learned that he is regularly retained to conduct medical examinations on behalf of insurance companies and defendants in traumatic brain injury cases. It appears that he routinely blames patients’ personal injury cases for causing their symptoms, a position that is not supported by the medical literature, but is undoubtedly lucrative. Needless to say, most experienced brain injury attorneys have former clients who resolved their cases, but who continue to have cognitive impairments.

So, where you go for TBI treatment can make a dramatic difference.  In a future blog post, I’ll discuss some of the on-line resources available to Traumatic Brain Injury survivors and their families.


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