Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School



A doctor should check anyone who has a head injury, especially if the person lost consciousness or showed a change in thinking, such as confusion or memory loss. A doctor usually will want to know:

  • How your injury occurred

  • What symptoms developed after the injury

  • Whether you have had head injuries in the past (repeat injuries are more likely to cause serious damage)

  • Whether you have other medical problems

  • What medications you take

  • Whether you have been drinking alcohol or using drugs

  • Whether you have symptoms of other injuries (neck pain, shortness of breath, etc.)

The doctor will do a thorough physical and neurological exam. The doctor will check your blood pressure, pulse, vision, the way your eyes respond to light, reflexes and balance, and your ability to answer questions and remember things. If a doctor sees you immediately after a head injury, the examination may be repeated over several hours to make sure you are not getting worse.

If you have mild symptoms, are awake and alert, and have a normal examination, your doctor may just monitor you without doing any more tests. This monitoring can be done at home if you have had a very minor injury. If your symptoms are serious or your neurological exam is abnormal, you will likely need a CT scan of your brain to look for signs of a more serious head injury.

If you are sent home, have someone stay with you for the first 24 to 48 hours because symptoms can become worse quickly or you could lose consciousness if your injury is more serious than your doctor suspected.

Page 3 of 9     Next Page:  Concussion Expected Duration
Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

You can find more great health information on the Harvard Health Publications website.