Defining Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS)

Man Sitting Down with Ice Pack to Head

Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) makes up approximately 80% of all TBI cases. It is associated with a range of physical, mood, and cognitive symptoms such as headaches, depression, and memory problems. While these symptoms usually dissipate within three months after injury, some patients experience long-term symptoms. In clinical and research settings, the long-term symptoms of mTBI is called post-concussion syndrome (PCS).

However, the syndrome can be difficult to diagnose. The International Classification of Diseases and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders use different diagnostic criteria. The symptoms of PCS often overlap each other (eg, depression, insomnia, and headaches may all lead to fatigue or memory impairment). And, under the current guidelines, patients without a history of brain injury may be as likely to fit the criteria as patients with mTBI.

These difficulties in diagnosis call for the development of less ambiguous criteria that take the most recent mTBI research under consideration. The current definitions of PCS may otherwise lead to misdiagnosis and missed treatment opportunities.

Dean PJA, O'Neill D, & Sterr A. Post-concussion syndrome: Prevalence after mild traumatic brain injury in comparison with a sample without head injury. Brain Injury. (January 2012).