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Harvey S. Levin, Steven Mattis, Ronald M. Ruff, Howard M. Eisenberg, Lawrence F. Marshall, Kamran Tabaddor, Walter M. High Jr. and Ralph F. Frankowski

✓ The majority of hospital admissions for head trauma are due to minor injuries; that is, no or only transient loss of consciousness without major complications and not requiring intracranial surgery. Despite the low mortality rate following minor head injury, there is controversy surrounding the extent of morbidity and the long-term sequelae. The authors postulated that consecutively admitted patients who fulfilled research diagnostic criteria for minor head injury and who were carefully screened for antecedent neuropsychiatric disorder and prior head injury would exhibit subacute cognitive and memory deficits that would resolve over a period of 1 to 3 months postinjury. To evaluate this hypothesis, the neurobehavioral functioning of 57 patients was compared within 1 week after minor head injury (baseline) and at 1 month postinjury with that of 56 selected control subjects at three medical centers. Quantified tests of memory, attention, and information-processing speed revealed that neurobehavioral impairment demonstrated at baseline by all means of measurement generally resolved during the first 3 months after minor head injury. Although nearly all patients initially reported cognitive problems, somatic complaints, and emotional malaise, these postconcussion symptoms had substantially resolved by the 3-month follow-up examination. The data suggest that a single uncomplicated minor head injury produces no permanent disabling neurobehavioral impairment in the great majority of patients who are free of preexisting neuropsychiatric disorder and substance abuse.

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Neurobehavioral outcome 1 year after severe head injury

Experience of the Traumatic Coma Data Bank

Harvey S. Levin, Howard E. Gary Jr., Howard M. Eisenberg, Ronald M. Ruff, Jeffrey T. Barth, Jeffrey Kreutzer, Walter M. High Jr., Sandra Portman, Mary A. Foulkes, John A. Jane, Anthony Marmarou and Lawrence F. Marshall

✓ The outcome 1 year after they had sustained a severe head injury was investigated in patients who were admitted to the neurosurgery service at one of four centers participating in the Traumatic Coma Data Bank (TCDB). Of 300 eligible survivors, the quality of recovery 1 year after injury was assessed by at least the Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS) in 263 patients (87%), whereas complete neuropsychological assessment was performed in 127 (42%) of the eligible survivors. The capacity of the patients to undergo neuropsychological testing 1 year after injury was a criterion of recovery as reflected by a significant relationship to neurological indices of acute injury and the GOS score at the time of hospital discharge. The neurobehavioral data at 1 year after injury were generally comparable across the four samples of patients and characterized by impairment of memory and slowed information processing. In contrast, language and visuospatial ability recovered to within the normal range. The lowest postresuscitation Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score and pupillary reactivity were predictive of the 1-year GOS score and neuropsychological performance. The lowest GCS score was especially predictive of neuropsychological performance 1 year postinjury in patients who had at least one nonreactive pupil following resuscitation. Notwithstanding limitations related to the scope of the TCDB and attrition in follow-up material, the results indicate a characteristic pattern of neurobehavioral recovery from severe head injury and encourage the use of neurobehavioral outcome measurements in clinical trials to evaluate interventions for head-injured patients.

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Ronald M. Ruff, David Young, Theresa Gautille, Lawrence F. Marshall, Jeff Barth, John A. Jane, Jeff Kreutzer, Anthony Marmarou, Harvey S. Levin, Howard M. Eisenberg and Mary A. Foulkes

✓ A total of 40 severely head-injured patients were selected from the Traumatic Coma Data Bank, supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, to analyze the recovery of verbal learning across baseline and 6- and 12-month evaluations postinjury. During the initial 6 months, the group demonstrated marked recovery, followed by an absence of improvement over the latter part of the year. Analysis of this recovery curve on a case by case basis revealed three recovery subtypes: namely, a flat curve, a peak-drop curve, or an improvement curve. These three subtypes proved to have concurrent validity when compared with another memory test. Adding 19 new patients to the sample cross-validated the subtypes. However, the memory performance of the 59 patients was dissociated from other neuropsychological tests which showed recovery at more equivalent rates across the subtypes. Analysis of the demographic and neurological characteristics disclosed that the group with a peak-drop recovery curve was less well educated and the group with a flat curve demonstrated a trend toward higher levels of hypoxia. Moreover, the three subgroups were rated by their relatives to have equivalent levels of depression at baseline and at 6 months, but only the improved subgroup demonstrated reduced depression at 1 year. The clinical relevancy of these differential recovery curves is discussed.