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J Neurotrauma. 2017 Jan 1;34(1):31-37. doi: 10.1089/neu.2015.4381. Epub 2016 Aug 25.

Patients "At Risk" of Suffering from Persistent Complaints after Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: The Role of Coping, Mood Disorders, and Post-Traumatic Stress.

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1 Department of Neuropsychology, University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen , Groningen, the Netherlands .
2 Department of Neurology, University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen , Groningen, the Netherlands .
3 Department of Neurology, St. Elisabeth Hospital , Tilburg, the Netherlands .
4 Department of Neurology, Medisch Spectrum Twente Enschede , Enschede, the Netherlands .


Although most patients recover fully following mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), a minority (15-25%) of all patients develop persistent post-traumatic complaints (PTC) that interfere with the resumption of previous activities. An early identification of patients who are at risk for PTC is currently performed by measuring the number of complaints in the acute phase. However, only part of this group will actually develop persisting complaints, stressing the need for studies on additional risk factors. This study aimed to compare this group of patients with many complaints with patients with few and no complaints to identify potential additional discriminating characteristics and to evaluate which of these factors have the most predictive value for being at risk. We evaluated coping style, presence of psychiatric history, injury characteristics, mood-related symptoms, and post-traumatic stress. We included 820 patients (Glasgow Coma Scale [GCS] score 13-15) admitted to three level-1 trauma centers as part of the UPFRONT-study. At 2 weeks after injury, 60% reported three or more complaints (PTC-high), 25% reported few complaints (PTC-low), and 15% reported no complaints (PTC-zero). Results showed that PTC-high consisted of more females (78% vs. 73% and 52%, p < 0.001), were more likely to have a psychiatric history (7% vs. 2% and 5%), and had a higher number of reported depression (22% vs. 6% and 3%, p < 0.001), anxiety (25% vs. 7% and 5%), and post-traumatic stress (37% vs. 27% and 19%, p < 0.001) than the PTC-low and PTC-zero groups. We conclude that in addition to reported complaints, psychological factors such as coping style, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress symptoms had the highest predictive value and should be taken into account in the identification of at-risk patients for future treatment studies.


neuropsychology; recovery; rehabilitation; traumatic brain injury

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