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.
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.
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.
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.
PURPOSE OF REVIEW: According to recent Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data, the annual incidence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the United States is 1.6-3.2 million, of which the majority is classified as mild. Over half of these injuries occur in the pediatric population, and can often be attributed to a sports-related mechanism. Although postconcussion symptoms are usually short-lived, more lasting deficits can occur, which can be particularly disruptive to the developing brain. Recent literature detailing the pathophysiology of mild TBI (mTBI), with attention to pediatric studies, is presented. RECENT FINDINGS: Although concussion generally does not produce any structural damage on conventional computed tomography (CT) or MRI, advanced neuroimaging modalities reveal microstructural and functional neurobiological changes. Diffuse axonal injury, metabolic impairment, alterations in neural activation and cerebral blood flow perturbations can occur and may contribute to acute symptomatology. Although these physiological changes usually recover to baseline in 7-10 days, sustaining recurrent injury before full recovery may increase the potential for persistent deficits. SUMMARY: Understanding the pathophysiology of concussion in the pediatric population can potentially open therapeutic avenues to decrease symptom persistence and prevent further injury. Future studies in the pediatric population are necessary given the pathophysiologic differences between the developing and adult brains.
Somatization is a symptom cluster characterized by ‘psychosomatic’ symptoms, that is, medically unexplained symptoms, and is a common component of other conditions, including depression and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). This article reviews the data regarding the pathophysiological foundations of ‘psychosomatic’ symptoms and the implications that this has for conceptualization of what may more appropriately be termed physio-somatic symptoms.
Head injuries across all age groups represent an extremely common emergency department (ED) presentation. The main focus of initial assessment and management rightly concentrates on the need to exclude significant pathology, that may or may not require neurosurgical intervention. Relatively little focus, however, is given to the potential for development of post-concussion syndrome (PCS), a constellation of symptoms of varying severity, which may bear little correlation to the nature or magnitude of the precipitating insult. This review aims to clarify the aetiology and terminology surrounding PCS and to examine the mechanisms for diagnosing and treating.