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Doctors get a new tool to assess the level of consciousness of the patients with brain injuries

Posted April 12, 2018

Consciousness is not like an old fashioned desk lamp – it is not simply on or off. Think of it like a light with a dimmer switch – it can be completely on or it can be just a little bit on. That is very important in case of brain injury – the level of consciousness determines what kind of treatment doctors are going to assign. Now scientists from the University of Glasgow have improved the Glasgow Coma Scale to make diagnosis more accurate.

Assessing patient’s level of consciousness is crucial for an accurate prognosis. Image credit: Diane A. Reid via Wikimedia

The Glasgow Coma Scale was created back in 1974. Since then this 13 point scale, covering the patient’s ability to open their eyes, speak and move, has revolutionized the way doctors asses the severity of brain trauma. How many points patients score on this scale determines what kind of care they are going to get. The Glasgow Coma Scale is used all over the world and is very important, but it can be improved upon. Now the original team of scientists who created the scale teamed up with researchers from the University of Edinburgh to improve it – they added a simple score for pupil response.

Scientists analysed health records from more than 15,000 patients and determined that this new improved Glasgow Coma Scale (now known as GCS-P) would improve doctor’s ability to accurately assess the condition and create an accurate prognosis in the six months following a brain injury. This new improved scale brings more accuracy and is generally a better tool for doctors as well for patients. Scientists say that while the Glasgow Coma Scale may look a bit too simple in the age of modern medicine, it is actually an incredibly useful tool.

When it comes to brain injury, time is everything. Dr Paul Brennan, who co-leader of the study, said: “Making major decisions about brain injured patients relies on quick assessments and the new method gives us rapid insights into the patient’s condition. Our next step is to test the GCS-P more widely on large data sets from Europe and the US”. The good thing is that the newly improved Glasgow Coma Scale can be implemented very easily in all the hospitals around the world.

Brain trauma is never easy to treat. However, the quicker and the more accurate the diagnosis, the better chances for a full recovery. It is also important, that the Glasgow Coma Scale is pretty easy to understand. This means that the family of the patient will also be able to understand the prognosis and how it was made.


Source: University of Glasgow

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