Concerns about mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) have increased in recent years, and neurosurgical consultation is often requested for patients with radiographic abnormalities or clinical findings suspicious for mTBI. However, to the authors' knowledge, no study has used the Acute Concussion Evaluation (ACE) tool to systematically evaluate the evolution of symptoms in patients with mTBI during neurosurgical follow-up. The goal in this study was to evaluate symptom progression in pediatric patients referred for neurosurgical consultation by using the ACE, as endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The authors performed a retrospective review of records of consecutive pediatric patients who had presented to the emergency department, were diagnosed with possible mTBI, and were referred for neurosurgical consultation. Outpatient follow-up for these patients included serial assessment using the ACE. Data collected included the mechanisms of the patients' injuries, symptoms, follow-up duration, and premorbid conditions that might potentially contribute to protracted recovery.
Of 91 patients identified with mTBI, 58 met the inclusion criteria, and 33 of these had sufficient follow-up data to be included in the study. Mechanisms of injury included sports injury (15 patients), isolated falls (10), and motor vehicle collisions (8). Ages ranged from 5 to 17 years (mean age 11.6 years), and 29 of the 33 patients were male. Six patients had preinjury developmental and/or psychiatric diagnoses such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Seventeen had negative findings on head CT scans. The first follow-up evaluation occurred at a mean of 30 days after injury. The mean number of symptoms reported on the ACE inventory at first follow-up were 3.2; 12 patients were symptom free. Patients with positive head CT findings required longer follow-up: these patients needed 14.59 weeks, versus 7.87 weeks of follow-up in patients with negative findings on head CT scans (p < 0.05).
The data suggest that patients with mTBI, particularly those with developmental and/or psychiatric comorbidities and concurrent cerebral or extracranial injury, often report symptoms for several weeks after their initial injury. Serial ACE assessment permits systematic identification of patients who are experiencing continued symptoms, leading to appropriate patient management and referral.