Helping Those in Need

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New findings may help more people with postconcussion syndrome receive care that they need.
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People with postconcussion syndrome may experience symptoms that include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, impaired memory and inability to focus.
Many people who suffer a mild traumatic brain injury, known as a concussion, quickly recover. But others develop postconcussion syndrome (PCS)—a condition with symptoms that can persist for weeks, months, years or indefinitely. Currently, it is difficult to know how many people suffer from PCS because consistent clinical standards—those used by physicians to diagnose the condition—are lacking.
 
In order to establish consistency in how this condition is diagnosed, Krembil Emeritus Scientist Dr. Charles Tator and his collaborators proposed a new definition of PCS. The new definition requires that patients experience any three or more symptoms for at least one month. The old definitions are stricter, requiring that the symptoms are experienced for at least three months.
 
When people were diagnosed using the new definition, the research team was able to identify previously unknown risk factors of PCS. These predictors included being female, experiencing amnesia and/or loss of consciousness at the time of injury, having extracranial injuries and being involved in legal proceedings around the injury. In contrast, when standard definitions were used, only the number of previous concussions was a risk factor of PCS.
 
“Our results suggest that the criteria we currently use to diagnose PCS in the clinic may only be capturing the most severe cases,” says Dr. Tator. “By revising these criteria, we have identified patient populations who do not receive the care that they need.”
 
This work was supported by the Canadian Concussion Centre at Toronto Western Hospital, which is funded by the Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation.
 
Postconcussion syndrome: demographics and predictors in 221 patients. Tator CH, Davis HS, Dufort PA, Tartaglia MC, Davis KD, Ebraheem A, Hiploylee C. Journal of Neurosurgery. 2016 Feb 26. [Pubmed abstract]