The most common scoring system used to describe the level of consciousness

Glasgow Coma Scale

The Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) is the most common scoring system used to describe the level of consciousness in a person following a traumatic brain injury. Basically, it is used to help gauge the severity of an acute brain injury. The test is simple, reliable, and correlates well with outcome following severe brain injury.

The GCS is a reliable and objective way of recording the initial and subsequent level of consciousness in a person after a brain injury. It is used by trained staff at the site of an injury like a car crash or sports injury, for example, and in the emergency department and intensive care units.

The GCS measures the following functions:

Eye Opening (E)

4 = spontaneous

3 = to sound

2 = to pressure

1 = none

NT = not testable

Verbal Response (V)

5 = orientated

4 = confused

3 = words, but not coherent

2 = sounds, but no words

1 = none

NT = not testable

Motor Response (M)

6 = obeys command

5 = localizing

4 = normal flexion

3 = abnormal flexion

2 = extension

1 = none

NT = not testable

Clinicians use this scale to rate the best eye opening response, the best verbal response, and the best motor response an individual makes. The final GCS score or grade is the sum of these numbers.

Using the Glasgow Coma Scale

A patient’s Glasgow Coma Score (GCS) should be documented on a coma scale chart. This allows for improvement or deterioration in a patient’s condition to be quickly and clearly communicated.

Individual elements, as well as the sum of the score, are important. The individual elements of a patient’s GCS can be documented numerically (e.g. E2V4M6) as well as added together to give a total Coma Score (e.g E2V4M6 = 12). For example, a score may be expressed as GCS 12 = E2 V4 M6 at 4:32.

Every brain injury is different, but generally, brain injury is classified as:

Severe: GCS 8 or less

Moderate: GCS 9-12

Mild: GCS 13-15

Mild brain injuries can result in temporary or permanent neurological symptoms and neuroimaging tests such as CT scan or MRI may or may not show evidence of any damage.

Moderate and severe brain injuries often result in long-term impairments in cognition (thinking skills), physical skills, and/or emotional/behavioral functioning.