What is the Glasgow Coma Scale?

by | Dec 22, 2022 | Personal Injury

Properly diagnosing a brain injury is key to providing fast and effective treatment. That is why medical teams use a range of tools and diagnostic tests to determine the scope and severity of the damage.

Upon first receiving treatment for a brain injury, doctors often assess patients using the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS). This evaluation looks at specific bodily functions and movements to determine a person’s level of consciousness. Here is how the test works and how to understand the results.

How the GCS works

GCS looks at verbal response, motor response, and eye opening. Each function receives a score according to the patient’s ability to follow commands, which can provide insight into how serious a brain injury is.

With motor response, patients receive a 1 to 6 rating depending on the outcome of the test. No response at all receives a 1, while the ability to follow commands receives a 6. As for eye opening, 1 means no response, while 4 indicates normal function. Verbal response is the final metric, with 1 indicating no response and 5 meaning the person can converse normally with others.

What individual scores mean

After compiling scores, doctors can provide better understanding of a person’s brain injury. Scores ranging from 3 to 8 indicate a severe brain injury. Moderate injuries receive scores ranging from 9 to 12, while mild injuries receive a 13 to 15 rating.

In addition to the GCS, there is also the Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS), which includes separate categories. Minor damage equals good recovery, while damage requiring special assistance is classified as moderately disabled. On the other hand, the need for daily assistance means a person is severely disabled. A vegetative state refers to lack of responsiveness, meaning the person will not respond to commands and stimuli.