Traumatic brain injury is under-diagnosed in patients with spinal cord injury
Anu Tolonen, Jukka Turkka, Oili Salonen, Eija Ahoniemi and Hannu Alaranta
Objective: To investigate the occurrence and severity of traumatic brain injury in patients with traumatic spinal cord injury.
Design: Cross-sectional study with prospective neurological, neuropsychological and neuroradiological examinations and retrospective medical record review.
Patients: Thirty-one consecutive, traumatic spinal cord injury patients on their first post-acute rehabilitation period in a national rehabilitation centre.
Methods: The American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine diagnostic criteria for mild traumatic brain injury were applied. Assessments were performed with neurological and neuropsychological examinations and magnetic resonance imaging 1.5T.
Results: Twenty-three of the 31 patients with spinal cord injury (74%) met the diagnostic criteria for traumatic brain injury. Nineteen patients had sustained a loss of consciousness or post-traumatic amnesia. Four patients had a focal neurological finding and 21 had neuropsychological findings apparently due to traumatic brain injury. Trauma-related magnetic resonance imaging abnormalities were detected in 10 patients. Traumatic brain injury was classified as moderate or severe in 17 patients and mild in 6 patients.
Conclusion: The results suggest a high frequency of traumatic brain injury in patients with traumatic spinal cord injury, and stress a special diagnostic issue to be considered in this patient group.
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