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Loss of Smell After a Traumatic Brain Injury

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Loss of Smell After a Traumatic Brain Injury


A common condition that may present following a traumatic brain injury is olfactory loss. Based upon the extent of the head trauma, a patient may experience olfactory dysfunction (OD), a distorted or diminished ability to smell during eating (retronasal olfaction), and sniffing (orthonasal olfaction). This medical condition may be manifest relatively soon after a brain injury and often goes undetected. Deficits on smell are neurosensory or conductive and based on the location of trauma. Conversely, the extent of this medical condition and its presence may depend on patient age, the severity of the brain injury, types of accompanying damages, and how long post-traumatic amnesia (PTA) has lasted.

If you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury resulting in anosmia following an accident, contact our personal injury lawyers in Sacramento at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400. We are available anytime to go over the details of your TBI case and provide free, friendly advice.

California law allows those who have suffered injuries in traumatic accidents, such as head injuries, to take legal action against the party responsible for the incident. Since a traumatic brain injury, no matter how minor or severe, may result in expenses that may incur throughout a patient’s lifetime, it is essential to receive full and fair compensation to consider all accident-related losses. How an injured party proceeds following an event resulting in a TBI will be crucial. The best course of action will be to seek legal counsel. At our law firm, we have over three decades of experience representing injured parties in California. Contact us today to learn how we can help you and your family through this difficult time.

How is Olfactory Dysfunction Evaluated After Head Trauma?

The clinical evaluation of a patient presenting with a head injury should start with patient history. A physical examination may begin with a comprehensive assessment of the head, searching for any signs of trauma such as telecanthus, palpable malunion from bone healing (bony step-off), asymmetries, discoloration of the skin (ecchymosis), and lacerations. The presence of a partial or complete loss of smell (anosmia) may provide the basis for the location of trauma.

Bilateral dysfunction may suggest fiber shearing along with the cribriform plate of the ethmoid bone within the nasal cavity, while unilateral symptoms may indicate an underlying disruption of the sinonasal tract. The former mechanism may be evaluated based upon complaints reported by the patient, such as clear nasal discharge (rhinorrhea) and metallic or salty taste in the mouth, both of which may suggest an underlying cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak resulting from an anterior skull base fracture.

A physician may also evaluate the severity of the brain injury and duration, including post-traumatic amnesia (PTA). Studies have suggested that olfactory dysfunction is likely to occur from occipital strikes in comparison to frontal forces. A thorough evaluation of systems is also to be conducted as PTA is often associated with accompanying conditions. These may include visual disturbances, disequilibrium, tinnitus, and hearing impairment.

How is Anosmia Diagnosed?

The identification of potential trauma to the olfactory system will be dependent on imaging. As initial encounters with patients presenting with head trauma usually include neuroimaging, these are often starting points that do not provide optimal orientation and resolution for analysis. Further diagnostic imaging is often necessary in cases where initial head scans provide incomplete visualization of sinonasal structures and are suggestive of trauma but are inconclusive in nature.

Computed tomography (CT) scanning is the imaging modality of choice for the face and jaw (maxillofacial) region. CT scanning allows for visualizing deformities within the bone structure and soft tissue of both the anterior skull base and sinonasal cavity. A physician may also order magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) if a patient is suspected of presenting with cortical damage following a TBI. An MRI will demonstrate abnormalities such as cerebral lesions of which may include contusion or intraparenchymal hematomas.

In addition to patient history and clinical examination in assessing olfactory dysfunction following a head injury, olfactory testing may also be ordered. A commonly used tool for evaluating anosmia is the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test (UPSIT). This comprises odorants described as “scratch and sniff,” in which the patient must choose one of four potential answers for each scent.

How Long Does Olfactory Dysfunction Last After a TBI?

Recovery of olfactory function after a traumatic brain injury may depend on the extent of the loss of smell. Most TBI patients may experience improvement within six to 12 months. The recovery process rarely occurs over two years after head trauma.

How Do You Regain Your Sense of Smell After a Traumatic Brain Injury?

If olfactory dysfunction has been caused as a result of brain damage, olfactory training may be helpful. This type of treatment usually involves exposing a patient to potent essential oils, such as those comprised of eugenol, citronellal, eucalyptol, and phenethyl alcohol, for up to 20 seconds twice a day for six weeks. Testing of olfactory function is performed before and after training in addition to various threshold tests for odor detection.

What to Expect from the Personal Injury Claims Process

A traumatic brain injury is a life-changing event that may have lasting effects on the patient and their family. Even those presenting with minor TBI cases may face lifelong struggles due to their medical condition and may have questions about moving forward in their situation. However, it is essential to understand that you cannot depend on the insurance company for answers. The unfortunate reality is that the goal of an insurance adjuster is to settle a personal injury claim for as little as possible or even outright deny it. This is because they are well aware of the substantial losses and treatment costs of brain damage.

In theory, the insurance company representing the other party should pay for economic damages and non-economic damages related to the collision, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. There are several ways in which the insurer may attempt to avoid paying out a claim. It is not uncommon for a claims adjuster or defense counsel to dispute the extent of a head injury with accompanying anosmia, shift blame onto an injured party for the incident caused it, or even claim that the brain injury is unrelated to the crash. Such problems are challenging to come to terms with, let alone if you have suffered head trauma.

Before agreeing to any settlement offer or documents in a bodily injury claim for a TBI, it is essential to discuss your options with a skilled injury lawyer. Attempting to handle the claim on your own may involve the insurance carrier trying to take advantage of you and your vulnerable situation. No matter how sympathetic the insurer may seem about your experience, their focus is to downplay the value of a personal injury case as a way of protecting their bottom line. Unlike an insurance carrier, an accident attorney will always have your best interests at heart when it comes to recovering the financial compensation you need to move forward after a life-changing accident. For details on how to find the best attorney in your area, watch this video.

Is There a Filing Deadline on Personal Injury Cases in California?

When seeking damages for a traumatic brain injury with accompanying olfactory dysfunction caused by someone else’s negligence, a strict filing deadline must be met if the insurer cannot reach a fair settlement. This time limit is known as the statute of limitations within two years from the date of loss, as outlined in the California Code of Civil Procedure Section 335.1. If a lawsuit is not filed in civil court within the deadline that applies to the case, you may lose the right to recover accident-related damages.

A different statute of limitations may apply in cases where a public agency is named as a defendant. For instance, a government entity may be liable for an accident resulting in injury caused by a road defect, an employee operating a government vehicle, and more. Keep in mind that time is of the essence when it comes to such matters. Under the California Government Code Section 911.2, a notice of claim must be brought with the appropriate public agency within six months. A successful personal injury claim will start with strict adherence to regulations and rules.

Filing a personal injury lawsuit for a TBI may be a stressful and overwhelming process to handle on your own. It is in your best interest to retain legal counsel to ensure all filing criteria and deadlines are met in the case. With an experienced traumatic brain injury lawyer on your side with extensive experience handling all types of accident cases and knowledge of California’s personal injury law, you may rest assured knowing your claim is in good hands.

Discuss Your Case with a Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyer Today

Recovering after a traumatic brain injury and olfactory dysfunction is a challenging process that may result in emotional, physical, and financial hardship. Fortunately, you do not have to deal with difficult insurance companies alone if you face this situation. The assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney may make a difference in the outcome of an accident case.

At our law firm, we have handled TBI cases since 1982, and we offer free, friendly advice to help you understand your rights and options for financial recovery moving forward. Give us a call today at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 to learn more about our legal team and how we can help you and your family through this trying time.

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