Diagnosis and prognosis of whiplash injury
It is advisable to seek professional medical advice as soon as possible following an accident in which you fear you may have suffered a whiplash injury.
A whiplash injury can sometimes take up to 72 hours to become apparent as the bruising to the soft tissues takes time to develop. Read more about what whiplash injury is.
How is whiplash injury diagnosed?
Diagnosis of whiplash injury is notoriously difficult but it is usually based on the following factors:
- The background of the injury – how and when it occurred
- The patient’s description of symptoms. Read more about symptoms of whiplash injury.
- Medical history - any past neck injuries or related conditions
- Physical examination
- Neurological studies to determine whether the spine has been damaged
The different levels of Whiplash Associated Disorders, as defined by the Quebec Task Force, are:
Grade 1 – complaints of neck pain, stiffness or tenderness only but no physical signs by the examining physician.
Grade 2 – neck complaints and the examining physician finds decreased range of motion and point tenderness in the neck.
Grade 3 – decreased range of motion plus neurological signs such as decreased deep tendon reflexes, weakness, insomnia and sensory deficits.
Grade 4 – neck complaints including fracture and dislocation or spinal cord injury
For more details see http://en.wikipedia.org
Methods of diagnosis
Depending on the severity and type of the Whiplash Associated Disorder, the following methods of diagnosis may be used:
- X-ray – this will be taken immediately if there is suspicion of fracture or instability of the cervical spine
- MRI scan – this may be necessary if there is suspicion of intervertebral disc herniation, injury or compression of a nerve or the spinal cord, muscle and ligament damage. For more details about MRI scans see http://www.spine.org/articles/mri.cfm
- Medial branch block (MBB) - an injection done to determine whether a facet joint is contributing to neck pain
- Discography – an injection into the disc, used in the most extreme cases to determine whether the disc is contributing to the pain
- C T scan – usually combined with myelogram (dye) and used to diagnose neck pain that doesn’t respond to treatment
- EMG and NCV – used if there is suspicion of trapping or damage of the nerves
What is the prognosis for whiplash injury?
The prognosis very much depends on the extent of the whiplash injury and the patient’s general health. The level of damage is determined by the position of the neck at the time of the accident. Read more about why whiplash injury occurs.
In many cases, with appropriate treatment, whiplash injury heals within one week to three months. Self-treatment promotes the most successful chance of full recovery. Read more about treatments for whiplash injury.
Factors relating to the prognosis for whiplash injury:
- Those who suffered neck conditions and headaches prior to their whiplash injury are more likely to experience ongoing symptoms. Read more about symptoms of whiplash injury
- If nerve roots are damaged numbness and weakness may last until recovery is complete.
- Heightened sensitisation of the nerves, poor posture, thickening of muscles and trauma to discs can prolong recovery.
- The greatest degree of improvement occurs within the first six months of injury unless damage is muscular rather than ligamentous.
- There is a rapid fall in the proportion of patients continuing to report symptoms between six and 12 months.
- Recovery is still possible after three years although the rate of recovery will be slower.
- Factors associated with longer rates of recovery include: being older, being female, having dependents and not being in full time employment.
- Only 2% of whiplash sufferers experience some form of permanent disability.
How can I make a whiplash injury claim today?
If you have suffered a whiplash injury then our personal injury experts are here to help you make a compensation claim.
You can claim for pain and suffering, loss of earnings, medical expenses such as treatments and much more. We may even be able to arrange for you to receive top medical care in your area.
We have an excellent success rate and guarantee that you will receive a dedicated no win, no fee service from us.
Simply call our friendly claim team on 0800 197 32 32 or fill out one of our online claim forms to start your whiplash injury claim today.