What is the morbidity and mortality associated with postconcussive syndrome (PCS)?

Updated: Jul 25, 2019
  • Author: Roy H Lubit, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: David Bienenfeld, MD  more...
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Morbidity from closed head injury is variable and difficult to predict. Most estimates of morbidity stratify populations into those with mild, moderate, or severe injury, based on their scores on the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) and the duration of posttraumatic amnesia (PTA). By definition, mild injury entails less than 15 minutes of unconsciousness (GCS >13) or less than 1 hour of PTA in the absence of skull fracture. PTA of less than 1 hour predicts full recovery, while PTA of greater than 24 hours in adults predicts neuropsychiatric disability. Between these benchmarks, the prognosis of an injury varies from complete recovery to persistent symptoms and disability.

Although severity of head injury as measured by depth of coma and length of PTA correlates with long-term sequelae, mild injuries sometimes lead to severe impairment and disability. [15] Conversely, not all severe injuries have severe consequences. Other factors that predict morbidity include patient age, history of prior injury, history of alcohol use (especially at time of injury), history of psychiatric disorder prior to injury, location and extent of focal brain damage, degree of diffuse axonal injury (DAI), evidence of brain stem dysfunction at the time of injury, and psychosocial adversity before or following injury.

The factors related to injury severity correlate most strongly with problems of memory, cognitive slowing, and impaired information processing. They contribute to mood, personality, and behavioral sequelae to an immeasurable degree. Psychosocial adversity and stress also contribute to the morbidity of post–head injury dementia and of postconcussive syndrome.

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