Psychiatric Symptoms After Concussion Predict Prolonged Recovery

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The time it takes for an individual to recover from a concussion can vary greatly, but a new study indicates psychiatric symptoms are a strong indicator for recovery length.

A study presented at the 2015 American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting showed patients who exhibited psychiatric symptoms more than 7 days after the injury are at an increased risk for a prolonged recovery that lasts more than one month.

“Our study shows the importance of screening for psychiatric manifestations of post-concussive syndrome,” Arun S. Chhabra, MD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, said in an interview with Neurology Advisor. “And by screening, you can help not only shorten recovery from and treat psychiatric manifestations, but it also benefits patients and their families to know that this may be part of the process, and, if so, it will make the recovery longer.”

For the study, Chhabra and colleagues reviewed 436 concussion or post-concussion syndrome patients between the ages of 16 and 75. The data was pulled from Rush University’s general neurology and sports medicine clinics between January 2012 and April 2014.

All individuals included in the study experienced a concussion within 4 months of the clinic visit and were excluded if they reported previous psychiatric illness or had an intracranial hemorrhage or skull fracture at the time of injury.

The final analysis included 77 patients, including 26 who displayed psychiatric symptoms between 7 and 30 days after injury. Among the 51 individuals who did not show psychiatric symptoms, 29.4 percent recovered in less than one month, compared to only 7.7% of those who showed psychiatric symptoms.

After including those who experienced psychiatric symptoms within the first 7 days following a concussion, the data indicated a slight increase in recovery time, however this did not reach statistical significance.

The vast majority of people with concussions heal within the first week, which led the researchers to focus primarily on 7 to 30 days post-concussion.

“And the cases that are not resolved in the first week warrant more attention from physicians, subspecialists, trainers, etc.,” he said.

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