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Old Brain Injuries May Prolong Recovery from Other Traumatic Ones

First Posted: Jun 10, 2013 01:31 AM EDT

A new study shows that children who've endured a recent head injury take longer to recover from the incident if they've already had a mild traumatic brain injury.

According to the study, the time for symptom resolution has doubled for those who had a history of the injury.

Matthew A. Eisenberg, M.D., and colleagues from Harvard Medical School in Boston, concur that the symptomatic period for children who'd sustained a concussion within the last 12 months nearly tripled, according to the study.

The participants in the study were typically 14 years of age, and more than half of them were boys. Almost two-thirds had been injured during sports activities, according to the study.

Researchers note that the most common presenting symptoms were headache, at 85 percent, fatigue at 65 percent and dizziness at 63 percent.

A total of 4 percent of participants had abnormalities of balance or gait, and mental status was affected in 2 percent of those in the study. Twenty-one percent who had neuroimaging studies done had no abnormalities.

The study shows that approximately two-thirds of the participants were discharged from the ED with a prescription for "cognitive rest," and 64 percent with advice to see their primary care physician. Ninety-two percent were also advised to take time off from sports activities.

"We always counsel patients that in the wake of a concussion, when they want to know what to do, one of the prime pieces of advice is to avoid additional head injury," said Michael L. Lipton, MD, PhD, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, who was not involved in the study, according to MedPage Today.

"Here we have some pretty compelling evidence that this is very sound advice and people need to be careful in the wake of one concussion about scrupulously observing a period of time where they really avoid a second injury," Lipton said, according to MedPage Today.

The findings show that the older age and higher symptom of severity for participants were often linked with their longer need for recovery and greater contact with older children. 

Yet, researchers also note that loss of consciousness at the time of concussion was associated with shorter recovery time, according to the study. 

The findings for this study are published online in the journal Peditarics.

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