Understanding the Glasgow Coma Scale and what it means for brain injury recovery

The Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) is the most commonly used system for scoring the level of consciousness in a person following a serious brain injury. Tests using the GCS are favoured because they are simple, reliable and have been shown to provide a good early indication of how serious an injury is in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic incident.

What does the Glasgow Coma Scale measure?

The GCS measures 3 key functions associated with healthy brain activity. These are:

  • Eye Opening (E)
  • Verbal Response (V)
  • Motor Response (M)

Each function is measured on a different scale corresponding to the level of response the person with the brain injury is capable of giving. If a particular function cannot be tested for any reason, it will be recorded as Not Testable (NT).

Eye Opening is measured on a scale of 1-4 with the levels being:

4 – Spontaneous

3 – To sound

2 – To pressure

1 – None

Verbal Response is measured on a scale of 1-5 with the levels being:

5 – Orientated

4 – Confused

3 – Words, but not coherent

2 – Sounds, but no words

1 – None

Motor Response is measured on a scale of 1-6 with the levels being:

6 – Obeys command

5 – Localizing

4 – Normal flexion

3 – Abnormal flexion

2 – Extension

1 – None

How the Glasgow Coma Scale is used

The scale is incredibly important for quickly assessing the severity of a brain injury and ensuring the patient has appropriate treatment in a timely fashion.

An individual tested with the GCS will be given a combined score from 3-15 that will also normally be broken down into the individual scores e.g. GCS 10 – E3V3M4.

A patient with a GCS score of 13-15 will normally be considered to have suffered a mild brain injury, a score of 9-12 usually corresponds to a moderate brain injury and 8 or less to a severe brain injury.

It is important to bear in mind, however, that this score is only a guideline, so even people with minor head injuries will need to be examined by a doctor as soon as possible after the injury occurs.

Why the Glasgow Coma Scale matters for brain injuries

With a serious brain injury, getting the right treatment as soon as possible after the injury occurs is normally essential to minimise the long-term consequences for the patient. The sooner treatment takes places, the less secondary damage is likely to occur e.g. from build up of fluid on the brain, leading to a better chance of the patient making a full recovery.

Because the Glasgow Coma Scale allows patients who need immediate emergency treatment to be identified quickly, it can therefore have a strong positive effect on the outcome for them and their prospects for recovery.

Getting your loved one the support they need for a brain injury

If a loved one is in a coma as a result of a brain injury, they face a potentially long and difficult road to recovery. While much of the support they need is likely to be available through the NHS, some treatment, on-going care and specialist equipment may need to be funded privately.

IBB Claims specialise in brain injury compensation claims, allowing you to pursue a settlement on behalf of a loved one in a coma so the funds they need will be in place when they need them. This can help to ensure they have everything they need to make the best possible recovery and quality of life.