How does the Glasgow Coma Score work?

The news that a friend or loved one has sustained a traumatic brain injury is something you may have trouble coping with. It can be even more worrying when the person you care about is not responding well to the outside world. Some TBI victims enter comas following an injury. To determine how severe a coma is, doctors will generally use the Glasgow Coma Score.

According to Brainline, the Glasgow Coma Score is the most common scoring method used to examine the consciousness of a TBI patient. After gauging three different kinds of responses from the patient, a doctor will come up with a particular score to determine the severity of the brain injury.

Eye responses

As part of the GCS, medical providers use stimuli to motivate the patient to open his or her eyes. A score of four indicates the patient can open eyes spontaneously. A score of three shows a patient can open eyes when prompted by vocal commands. A score of two indicates the patient will open eyes due to pressure. Doctors score a patient at one if there is no opening of the eyes at all.

Verbal Responses

Medical providers will measure the ability of a TBI patient to speak. The verbal response score runs from one to five, with five showing the patient can engage in regular conversation. As the score numbers progress to one, the patient has increasing difficulty in communicating. A patient with a score of three may speak words but they are not understandable. A score of two indicates a patient can only produce sounds. At a score of one, a patient does not speak at all.

Motor Responses

The GCS will also look at the motor responses of a patient. A patient who scores a six will obey commands and respond normally. As the score worsens, a patient will show less motor response, perhaps responding to touch but not verbal commands, or just to pain, or will only produce reflexive actions. When the score reaches one, the patient produces no motor response at all.

Final scores

Once medical providers have finished their tests, they will sum up the scores into a final score. A mild brain injury will score at 13-15. A moderate injury scores at 9-12. A severe injury will score at eight or less. If your friend or loved one has a mild brain injury, only temporary neurological problems may result, but if the GCS indicates a moderate or severe injury, the person you care about may have lifelong issues with cognition, physical abilities or emotional functions.