Randomised, waiting list controlled trial of cognitive–behavioural therapy for persistent postconcussional symptoms after predominantly mild–moderate traumatic brain injury

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Abstract

Background

Persistent postconcussional symptoms (PCS) can be a source of distress and disability following traumatic brain injury (TBI). Such symptoms have been viewed as difficult to treat but may be amenable to psychological approaches such as cognitive–behavioural therapy (CBT).

Objectives

To evaluate the effectiveness of a 12-session individualised, formulation-based CBT programme.

Method

Two-centre randomised waiting list controlled trial with 46 adults with persistent PCS after predominantly mild-to-moderate TBI (52% with post-traumatic amnesia (PTA)≤24 hours), but including some with severe TBIs (20% with PTA>7 days).

Results

Improvements associated with CBT were found on the primary outcome measures relating to quality of life (using the Quality of Life Assessment Schedule and the Brain Injury Community Rehabilitation Outcome Scale). Treatment effects after covarying for treatment duration were also found for PCS and several secondary outcomes, including measures of anxiety and fatigue (but not depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)). Improvements were more apparent for those completing CBT sessions over a shorter period of time, but were unrelated to medicolegal status, injury severity or length of time since injury.

Conclusions

This study suggests that CBT can improve quality of life for adults with persistent PCS and potentially reduce symptoms for some, in the context of outpatient brain injury rehabilitation services.

Trial registration number

ISRCTN49540320.

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