Cognitive-Behavioral Prevention of Postconcussion Syndrome in At-Risk Patients: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial

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To examine the tolerability and estimate the treatment effect of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) delivered soon after mild traumatic brain injury to patients at risk for chronic postconcussion syndrome (PCS).


Tertiary rehabilitation center.


Twenty-eight patients with uncomplicated mild traumatic brain injury, determined to be at risk for chronic PCS based on a published algorithm that incorporates subacute postconcussion symptoms and maladaptive illness beliefs (recovery expectations and perceived consequences). They were enrolled within 6 weeks postinjury.


Open-label, parallel-group, randomized controlled trial, with masked outcome assessment 3 months after enrolment. Interventions were (1) treatment as usual (education, reassurance, and symptom management strategies) from an occupational therapist, or (2) treatment as usual plus CBT delivered by a psychologist.

Main Measures:

Rivermead Postconcussion Symptoms Questionnaire.


Four participants (2:2) withdrew. Treatment credibility and satisfaction ratings were high in the CBT group. Treatment effect sizes were moderate for postconcussion symptoms (Cohen d = 0.74) and moderate-large for most secondary outcome measures (Cohen d = 0.62-1.61). Fewer participants receiving CBT had a diagnosis of PCS at follow-up (54% vs 91%, P < .05).


Our preliminary data suggest that CBT delivered soon after mild traumatic brain injury is well tolerated and may facilitate recovery in patients who are at risk for chronic PCS. A definitive clinical trial is warranted.

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