Head or Brain Injury | Diagnosis & Treatments

How is a head or brain injury diagnosed?

The doctor will examine your child and ask about his or her symptoms, medical history, and how and where the injury occurred.

What tests will my child need?

To help diagnose a head or brain injury, your child’s doctor may also order one or more of the following tests:

  • Speech, language or cognition tests: Doctors use these tests to see if the head injury has affected any of your child’s brain functions, such as speaking, reading, or memory.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scans: CT scans use x-ray equipment and powerful computers to create detailed images of the head and brain. A CT scan can show bruised brain tissue, bleeding in the brain, and other brain damage.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRI uses a combination of electromagnets and radio waves to take detailed images of the brain.
  • Intracranial pressure monitoring: In some cases, a traumatic brain injury can cause swelling in the brain that increases pressure in the skull. The doctor may place a probe in the skull to check this swelling. If the pressure gets too high, a shunt or drain may be used to relieve this pressure.

How we treat head injuries

Treatment for mild head injuries

The most important treatment for mild head injuries, such as concussions, is physical and mental rest. This gives the body a break from moving and thinking, so the brain can heal. Your child’s doctor will give you a schedule to increase your child’s activity levels once the symptoms have gone away. Doing too much before the brain has fully healed can slow recovery and may cause lasting problems.

Treatment for severe head injuries

Treatment for more severe head injuries varies depending on your child’s injury. Options may include:

  • surgery to repair breaks or bleeding
  • placing drains or shunts in the skull to reduce extra pressure
  • medications to help prevent blood clots, muscle spasms, and seizures 

Extra support for serious brain injuries

Some brain injuries can cause problems with movement, behavior, speech, vision, hearing, or taste. Children with these injuries may need more long-term support, including:

Expert care for head and brain injuries

Boston Children's Hospital has been a worldwide innovator in diagnosing and treating pediatric head and brain injuries for decades. Learn more about how the Brain Injury Center helps children who have head and brain injuries.

Helpful links

You can learn more about head and brain injuries on the following websites: