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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

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Natasha Richardson Dies After Brain Injury

Brain Experts Weigh In on Natasha Richardson's Head Injuries From a Skiing Accident

Does everyone need an MRI or CT brain scan after a head injury?

Probably not.

"I think most people would say that's probably overkill, since the kind of situation that happened to [Richardson] is relatively rare," Grafman says. "If you have symptoms ... then it's likely somebody would have a scan. But if somebody is apparently symptom-free after a ding, it's not likely they would have a scan."

Doctors would also perform a neurologic exam, checking on the patient's mental status and whether they're confused or sleepy, as well as investigating their symptoms.

What are the symptoms of a brain injury?

Grafman's list of brain injury symptoms includes headaches, nausea, general malaise and discomfort, seizures, changes in thinking, changes in memory, and changes in attention or other mental skills.

"All those kinds of things are usually not too subtle if there's a big problem that needs intervention," Grafman says. "For a milder head injury that might cause some subtle symptoms, as often as not, CT scan or MRI is going to be negative. You're not going to see anything" on the brain scan, he says.

After a fall -- even a little tumble -- make a point to be around other people.

"You don't want to isolate yourself," Grafman says. "You want to be around other people who can see how you're doing."

Grafman isn't trying to be alarming. "I don't think there's any reason to be excessively nervous," he says. "Don't be alone after something like that happens, but you don't necessarily have to run to the ER unless you experience changes."

Taylor also encourages people not to let someone who's just had a head injury go to sleep.

"That's very important, because if they do go to sleep, they can slip into unconsciousness, and nobody's watching closely for various types of neurological symptoms," Taylor says.

"If there are neurological symptoms or discomfort or headache, don't be afraid to call 911," Taylor says.

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