Almost half a million kids under age 14 visit U.S. emergency departments each year because of mild traumatic brain injuries, otherwise known as concussion. And in some, symptoms – especially difficulty paying attention and forgetfulness – could persist as long as 12 months after their injury, says a new study from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio.
Researchers looked at 200 children ages 8-15 who visited the Nationwide emergency department or Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland with a brain injury and 100 children who came in with bone injuries. They compared the two groups, using the children with orthopedic injuries as a control group, and interviewed their parents about symptoms common to head trauma before their children were injured, right after injury, and three and 12 months later.
Children with concussion – especially if they lost consciousness or had abnormalities on brain scans –were more likely to have both physical symptoms like headache and fatigue and cognitive symptoms like forgetfulness and lack of focus than were those with broken bones. And while the physical symptoms diminished over time, the cognitive symptoms lasted as long as a year.
The more severely a child who had concussion was injured, the more likely she or he was to have persistent symptoms. And when symptoms lasted at least three months, kids were more likely to need help in school.
Researchers say that while most children with concussion do just fine, it is important for healthcare providers to be able to identify children with mild traumatic brain injury who are most at risk for persistent symptoms, so that those kids can be monitored and receive the help they need.
The study appeared March 5 in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.