A new study has identified certain symptom trends among patients with post-concussion syndrome (PCS) that may help predict their chances for recovery. The findings show that patients who exhibit multiple symptoms and whose symptoms last for more than three years are less likely to make a full recovery.
PCS is a complex disorder that affects anywhere from five to 43 percent of concussed individuals. Symptoms may include prolonged headaches, fatigue, dizziness, loss of memory or concentration, irritability, anxiety, and more.
Little is known about the exact cause of PCS, and it is also unknown whether PCS is a predictor of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) a progressive neurodegenerative disease that has been linked to multiple concussions.
For the study, researchers at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre’s (KNC) Canadian Concussion Centre (CCC) set out to identify potential symptom patterns among 110 patients with PCS that could help determine patients’ chances of recovery.
They found that the number of symptoms PCS sufferers experienced was strongly tied to their potential for recovery. For example, patients with one or two symptoms were more likely to recover and recovered more quickly than those with ten or more symptoms.
“These findings flag that the presence of multiple symptoms with PCS may indicate a prolonged illness,” said Dr. Charles Tator, neurosurgeon and director of the CCC who led the study.
“Although more research is needed, based on these findings I would encourage health practitioners to pay attention to the multiplicity of symptoms in PCS patients and vigorously treat as many of them as possible to increase chances of recovery.”
The researchers also found that patients with persistent concussion symptoms who resumed playing sports despite recommendations to refrain were less likely to recover from PCS.
The study also showed strong ties between certain PCS symptoms. For example, patients who reported anxiety also reported depression — two symptoms that appeared to go hand in hand. More research is needed to better understand this association, but it could indicate that the brain regions responsible for these symptoms are near each other and were injured together.
Finally, study patients with symptoms that lasted for more than three years failed to make a full recovery. This is the first study to indicate there could be a definite period for PCS after which recovery is unlikely, but more research is needed from a larger sample size to determine if this holds true.
“There is such a wide range of recovery among PCS sufferers that further investigation is necessary to better understand the condition,” Tator said. “Once we can better characterize this phase of concussion injury, we hope that will help us determine whether there is also a link with CTE.”
The researchers will continue to track the study participants for at least 10 years to observe any changes in their symptoms, and to determine if there is any further recovery.
The findings were published in the Journal of Neurotrauma.
Source: University Health Network