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Curr Treat Options Neurol. 2009 Sep;11(5):377-82.

Current treatment options for depression after mild traumatic brain injury.

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  • 1Esther Bay, PhD, RN Center for Nursing Research, A417 West Fee, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.


Mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) is the most common neurologic condition in the United States; about 503 of every 100,000 persons visiting the emergency department have this diagnosis. A complex cluster of neurologic signs and symptoms are associated with an acceleration-deceleration mechanism of injury. Unfortunately, many persons do not seek treatment for MTBI. Depression following MTBI adds to the complexity and complicates the diagnosis and treatment because of overlap of symptoms, including delays in information processing, sleep difficulties, irritability, and fatigue, as well as pain in association with headache or other musculoskeletal injuries. Depression after MTBI has been associated with abnormal CT scan results, older age, and increased depressive symptoms within a week after injury. Given the progress made in understanding the natural history of MTBI and post-TBI depression in general, there has been less progress in treatment trials for post-MTBI depression. In this review, we report on one phase 4, nonrandomized single-group trial in persons with mild-to-moderate TBI and note a "response to treatment" effect without the ability to discern the potential impact of other prescribed pharmacotherapies on the outcome. In a randomized controlled trial focusing on a telephone counseling intervention for post-MTBI symptoms, the intervention appeared to be effective in reducing 6-month post-MTBI symptoms, but it was not effective for the general health outcome, which included measures of depressive symptoms and anxiety. Thus, evidence-based treatment of post-MTBI depression is quite limited. Because depressive symptoms can develop as early as 1 week after injury and can be exacerbated by stress, pain, and comorbidities, it seems prudent to begin early interventions focused on managing pain and stress, along with providing psychoeducational and problem-solving therapies. Efficacy studies are needed to determine whether telemedicine approaches, group interventions, or peer counseling may be helpful methods of delivering such interventions during the early months as ways to attenuate the development of a major depressive disorder.

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