Concept: Post-concussion syndrome
BACKGROUND: Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) secondary to blast exposure is the most common battlefield injury in Southwest Asia. There has been little prospective work in the combat setting to test the efficacy of new countermeasures. The goal of this study was to compare the efficacy of N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) versus placebo on the symptoms associated with blast exposure mTBI in a combat setting. METHODS: This study was a randomized double blind, placebo-controlled study that was conducted on active duty service members at a forward deployed field hospital in Iraq. All symptomatic U.S. service members who were exposed to significant ordnance blast and who met the criteria for mTBI were offered participation in the study and 81 individuals agreed to participate. Individuals underwent a baseline evaluation and then were randomly assigned to receive either N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) or placebo for seven days. Each subject was re-evaluated at 3 and 7 days. Outcome measures were the presence of the following sequelae of mTBI: dizziness, hearing loss, headache, memory loss, sleep disturbances, and neurocognitive dysfunction. The resolution of these symptoms seven days after the blast exposure was the main outcome measure in this study. Logistic regression on the outcome of ‘no day 7 symptoms’ indicated that NAC treatment was significantly better than placebo (OR = 3.6, p = 0.006). Secondary analysis revealed subjects receiving NAC within 24 hours of blast had an 86% chance of symptom resolution with no reported side effects versus 42% for those seen early who received placebo. CONCLUSION: This study, conducted in an active theatre of war, demonstrates that NAC, a safe pharmaceutical countermeasure, has beneficial effects on the severity and resolution of sequelae of blast induced mTBI. This is the first demonstration of an effective short term countermeasure for mTBI. Further work on long term outcomes and the potential use of NAC in civilian mTBI is warranted. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00822263.
Over the past decade, there has been a considerable increase in research on, and media attention to, sports-related concussion. However, despite accurate diagnosis, effective treatment and management of sports-related concussion have remained a challenge. There are approximately 1.8 million traumatic brain injuries in the United States annually (Faul et al., 2010) and emergency department pediatric visits for suspected concussion have doubled in the past decade (Bakhos et al., 2010). However, health care providers and medical researchers have yet to offer an effective, reliable evidence-based treatment for concussive brain injury. The Zurich 2008 Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport codified the prescription for cognitive and physical rest immediately following a concussion based on clinical acumen and common sense (McCrory et al., 2009). Currently, rest is the considered the best immediate treatment for concussion. Other supportive and anecdotal treatments are often applied throughout the post-concussive recovery process to address persistent symptoms. The need for empirical research to translate current guidelines for rest into evidence-based treatment protocols is essential. A recent study evaluated the efficacy of comprehensive rest and concluded that such rest may be helpful whether applied soon after a concussion or weeks to months later (Moser et al., 2012). Here, we present a case illustrating the effectiveness of rest in a youth athlete, commenced after experiencing 13 months of post-concussion symptoms. There appears to be value in applying a specific period of cognitive and physical rest following concussion, whether immediately or later in the recovery phase.
Chronic day-to-day symptoms of orthostatic intolerance are the most notable features of postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). However, we have encountered patients with such symptoms and excessive tachycardia but with no symptoms during the tilt-table test (TTT). We aimed to investigate whether POTS patients with chronic orthostatic intolerance always present orthostatic symptoms during the TTT and analyze the factors underlying symptom manifestation during this test.
It is time to stop using the term concussion as it has no clear definition and no pathological meaning. This confusion is increasingly problematic as the management of ‘concussed’ individuals is a pressing concern. Historically, it has been used to describe patients briefly disabled following a head injury, with the assumption that this was due to a transient disorder of brain function without long-term sequelae. However, the symptoms of concussion are highly variable in duration, and can persist for many years with no reliable early predictors of outcome. Using vague terminology for post-traumatic problems leads to misconceptions and biases in the diagnostic process, producing uninterpretable science, poor clinical guidelines and confused policy. We propose that the term concussion should be avoided. Instead neurologists and other healthcare professionals should classify the severity of traumatic brain injury and then attempt to precisely diagnose the underlying cause of post-traumatic symptoms.
Awareness of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and persisting post-concussive syndrome (PCS) has increased substantially in the past few decades, with a corresponding increase in research on diagnosis, management, and treatment of patients with mTBI. The purpose of this article is to provide a narrative review of the current literature on behavioral assessment and management of patients presenting with mTBI/PCS, and to detail the potential role of neuropsychologists and rehabilitation psychologists in interdisciplinary care for this population during the acute, subacute, and chronic phases of recovery.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a complex, multisystem disorder that can be disabling. CFS symptoms can be provoked by increased physical or cognitive activity, and by orthostatic stress. In preliminary work, we noted that CFS symptoms also could be provoked by application of longitudinal neural and soft tissue strain to the limbs and spine of affected individuals. In this study we measured the responses to a straight leg raise neuromuscular strain maneuver in individuals with CFS and healthy controls. We randomly assigned 60 individuals with CFS and 20 healthy controls to either a 15 minute period of passive supine straight leg raise (true neuromuscular strain) or a sham straight leg raise. The primary outcome measure was the symptom intensity difference between the scores during and 24 hours after the study maneuver compared to baseline. Fatigue, body pain, lightheadedness, concentration difficulties, and headache scores were measured individually on a 0-10 scale, and summed to create a composite symptom score. Compared to individuals with CFS in the sham strain group, those with CFS in the true strain group reported significantly increased body pain (P = 0.04) and concentration difficulties (P = 0.02) as well as increased composite symptom scores (all P = 0.03) during the maneuver. After 24 hours, the symptom intensity differences were significantly greater for the CFS true strain group for the individual symptom of lightheadedness (P = 0.001) and for the composite symptom score (P = 0.005). During and 24 hours after the exposure to the true strain maneuver, those with CFS had significantly higher individual and composite symptom intensity changes compared to the healthy controls. We conclude that a longitudinal strain applied to the nerves and soft tissues of the lower limb is capable of increasing symptom intensity in individuals with CFS for up to 24 hours. These findings support our preliminary observations that increased mechanical sensitivity may be a contributor to the provocation of symptoms in this disorder.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the leading cause of death and disability in the US. Approximately 70-90% of the TBI cases are classified as mild, and up to 25% of them will not recover and suffer chronic neurocognitive impairments. The main pathology in these cases involves diffuse brain injuries, which are hard to detect by anatomical imaging yet noticeable in metabolic imaging. The current study tested the effectiveness of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) in improving brain function and quality of life in mTBI patients suffering chronic neurocognitive impairments.
Accurate means to detect mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) using objective and quantitative measures remain elusive. Conventional imaging typically detects no abnormalities despite post-concussive symptoms. In the present study, we recorded resting state magnetoencephalograms (MEG) from adults with mTBI and controls. Atlas-guided reconstruction of resting state activity was performed for 90 cortical and subcortical regions, and calculation of inter-regional oscillatory phase synchrony at various frequencies was performed. We demonstrate that mTBI is associated with reduced network connectivity in the delta and gamma frequency range (>30 Hz), together with increased connectivity in the slower alpha band (8-12 Hz). A similar temporal pattern was associated with correlations between network connectivity and the length of time between the injury and the MEG scan. Using such resting state MEG network synchrony we were able to detect mTBI with 88% accuracy. Classification confidence was also correlated with clinical symptom severity scores. These results provide the first evidence that imaging of MEG network connectivity, in combination with machine learning, has the potential to accurately detect and determine the severity of mTBI.
Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a disease characterized by intense and debilitating fatigue not due to physical activity that has persisted for at least 6 months, post-exertional malaise, unrefreshing sleep, and accompanied by a number of secondary symptoms, including sore throat, memory and concentration impairment, headache, and muscle/joint pain. In patients with post-exertional malaise, significant worsening of symptoms occurs following physical exertion and exercise challenge serves as a useful method for identifying biomarkers for exertion intolerance. Evidence suggests that intestinal dysbiosis and systemic responses to gut microorganisms may play a role in the symptomology of ME/CFS. As such, we hypothesized that post-exertion worsening of ME/CFS symptoms could be due to increased bacterial translocation from the intestine into the systemic circulation. To test this hypothesis, we collected symptom reports and blood and stool samples from ten clinically characterized ME/CFS patients and ten matched healthy controls before and 15 minutes, 48 hours, and 72 hours after a maximal exercise challenge. Microbiomes of blood and stool samples were examined. Stool sample microbiomes differed between ME/CFS patients and healthy controls in the abundance of several major bacterial phyla. Following maximal exercise challenge, there was an increase in relative abundance of 6 of the 9 major bacterial phyla/genera in ME/CFS patients from baseline to 72 hours post-exercise compared to only 2 of the 9 phyla/genera in controls (p = 0.005). There was also a significant difference in clearance of specific bacterial phyla from blood following exercise with high levels of bacterial sequences maintained at 72 hours post-exercise in ME/CFS patients versus clearance in the controls. These results provide evidence for a systemic effect of an altered gut microbiome in ME/CFS patients compared to controls. Upon exercise challenge, there were significant changes in the abundance of major bacterial phyla in the gut in ME/CFS patients not observed in healthy controls. In addition, compared to controls clearance of bacteria from the blood was delayed in ME/CFS patients following exercise. These findings suggest a role for an altered gut microbiome and increased bacterial translocation following exercise in ME/CFS patients that may account for the profound post-exertional malaise experienced by ME/CFS patients.
Mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), which is defined as a head trauma resulting in a brief loss of consciousness and/or alteration of mental state, is usually benign, but occasionally causes persistent and sometimes progressive symptoms. Whether a threshold for the amount of brain injury and/or individual vulnerability might contribute to the development of these long-term consequences is unknown. Furthermore, reliable diagnostic methods that can establish whether a blow to the head has affected the brain (and in what way) are lacking. In this Review, we discuss potential biomarkers of injury to different structures and cell types in the CNS that can be detected in body fluids. We present arguments in support of the need for further development and validation of such biomarkers, and for their use in assessing patients with head trauma in whom the brain might have been affected. Specifically, we focus on the need for such biomarkers in the management of sports-related concussion, the most common cause of mild TBI in young individuals, to prevent long-term neurological sequelae due to concussive or subconcussive blows to the head.