Post-Concussion Syndrome May Be PTSD in Disguise

Mild traumatic brain injury patients exhibited PTSD symptoms

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Even mild brain injury is serious business. A person can experience a range of symptoms many months after having received a concussion, but those symptoms might not be what they seem.

A recent study questioned whether post-concussion syndrome is the best diagnosis for some of these long-term symptoms.

The authors suggested that their findings point to PTSD as a more likely diagnosis.

"Seek medical care after a brain injury."

The study, led by Emmanuel Lagarde, PhD, of Injury Prevention and Control at the University of Bordeaux in France, examined the long-term symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury.

The researchers tracked 1,361 patients who had been admitted with an injury to an emergency room at the University Hospital of Bordeaux between December 2007 and February 2009.

The researchers followed up with 534 patients with head injuries and 827 comparison patients who had other injuries after three months.

At the three-month follow-up, patients in both groups were assessed for symptoms of post-concussion syndrome and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

Symptoms of post-concussion syndrome include headaches and memory loss that can occur after a mild traumatic brain injury.

During the follow-up, 21 percent of the patients with head injuries and 16 percent of the patients with other (non-head) injuries met the diagnostic criteria for post-concussion syndrome.

In addition, 9 percent of the patients with head injuries and 2 percent with other injuries met the criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD.

The researchers' data revealed that having a mild traumatic brain injury increased the odds of a later PTSD diagnosis by 4.5 times.

However, head injury patients did not appear to be more likely to have post-concussion syndrome than the comparison patients who did not have head injuries.

This finding led the authors to conclude that symptoms often thought to be part of post-concussion syndrome might actually overlap with PTSD.

In fact, the authors of this study suggested that post-concussion syndrome symptoms should be considered potentially a part of PTSD instead of only post-concussion syndrome.

"Our results also stressed the importance of considering PTSD risk and treatment for patients with mild traumatic brain injury," the authors wrote.

The study was published online July 16 in JAMA Psychiatry. The research was funded by INSERM, the REUNICA Group and Bordeaux University Hospital. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
July 15, 2014
Last Updated:
July 16, 2014