A new study points to a method diagnosing traumatic brain injury (TBI) in people who show no other signs of a concussion. The test uses a small instrument that looks for changes in the size of a person’s pupils, which may indicate a brain injury.

TBI can be severe and result in subtle changes to the brain, even though no symptoms exist immediately after trauma to the brain. The study focused on the use of quantitative pupillometry (QP) for diagnosing brain injuries in high school football players.

What are the symptoms of TBI?

Traumatic brain injuries are often caused by motor vehicle crashes when a person receives a severe blow to the head. Often, the person will not show any signs of the injury for days, weeks or even months. Concussions are the most common type of brain injury, and the symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Double vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Balance problems
  • Sensitivity to light or sounds

Seek immediate medical care for a head injury

Without treatment, cognitive and physical complications can result from TBI, such as severe headaches, vertigo, coma, seizures, fluid on the brain and blood vessel damage. Doctors usually prescribe rest and pain medication for mild or moderate concussions, while severe brain injuries may require surgery.

TBI is usually diagnosed through advanced imaging and biomarkers, which can be costly and invasive. It also takes time to evaluate the results. Researchers believe QP may be a more efficient and less expensive alternative. The device is more sophisticated than a penlight, and measures pupil size as well as how it reacts to light, and the test only takes two minutes to perform.