The Contribution of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder & Mild Traumatic Brain Injury to Persistent Post-Concussive Symptoms Following Motor Vehicle Accidents

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Annually, about 500 in every 100,000 children experience a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Though the majority of these injuries are mild and symptoms typically resolve within days to weeks after injury, 5-30% of children may experience persistent post-concussive symptoms (PPCS), which can negatively impact their quality of life for months or even years after TBI.

Recent research suggests that PPCS is also related to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a response to trauma that children, who lack developed emotional awareness, may not be able to report. To further examine this relationship, researchers studied the relationship among mild TBI, PPCS, and PTSD in a group of sixty-one children who were involved in motor vehicle accidents.

After administering clinical interviews, neuropsychological evaluations, and self-report questionnaires, researchers found that:

  • All of the children exhibited symptoms of PTSD, while only 33 were diagnosed with mTBI.
  • There were no significant emotional or neurocognitive differences between the mTBI and the non-mTBI groups.
  • Emotional status (such as anxiety or depression) was the best predictor of PPCS.

Importantly, PPCS cannot be attributed to mTBI alone. The presence of PTSD symptoms plays a significant role in the mTBI recovery process, and emotional symptoms in particular can predict a longer recovery time. To reduce the chances of PPCS, clinicians should take care to assess the emotional health of mTBI children (who may not be able to adequately self-report their emotional states) when formulating long-term patient treatment plans.

Source: Segev S, Shorer M, Rassovsky Y, et al. The contribution of posttraumatic stress disorder and mild traumatic brain injury to persistent post concussive symptoms following motor vehicle accidents. Neuropsychology. (August 2016).

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