Factors Influencing Postconcussion and Posttraumatic Stress Symptom Reporting Following Military-Related Concurrent Polytrauma and Traumatic Brain Injury

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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to identify factors that are predictive of, or associated with, high endorsement of postconcussion and posttraumatic stress symptoms following military-related traumatic brain injury (TBI). Participants were 1,600 U.S. service members (age: M = 27.1, SD = 7.1; 95.4% male) who had sustained a mild-to-moderate TBI and who had been evaluated by the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center at one of six military medical centers. Twenty-two factors were examined that included demographic, injury circumstances/severity, treatment/evaluation, and psychological/physical variables. Four factors were statistically and meaningfully associated with clinically elevated postconcussion symptoms: (i) low bodily injury severity, (ii) posttraumatic stress, (iii) depression, and (iv) military operation where wounded (p < .001, 43.2% variance). The combination of depression and posttraumatic stress symptoms accounted for the vast majority of unique variance (41.5%) and were strongly associated with, and predictive of, clinically elevated postconcussion symptoms [range: odds ratios (OR) = 4.24–7.75; relative risk (RR) = 2.28–2.51]. Five factors were statistically and meaningfully associated with clinically elevated posttraumatic stress symptoms: (i) low bodily injury severity, (ii) depression, (iii) a longer time from injury to evaluation, (iv) military operation where wounded, and (v) current auditory deficits (p < .001; 65.6% variance accounted for). Depression alone accounted for the vast majority of unique variance (60.0%) and was strongly associated with, and predictive of, clinically elevated posttraumatic stress symptoms (OR = 38.78; RR = 4.63). There was a very clear, strong, and clinically meaningful association between depression, posttraumatic stress, and postconcussion symptoms in this sample. Brain injury severity, however, was not associated with symptom reporting following TBI.

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