Objective: To examine the incidence and neuropsychological, behavioral, and neuroimaging correlates of postconcussive symptoms (PCS) in children with mild closed head injuries (CHI).
Design: 26 Children with mild CHI and 8 of their uninjured siblings, from 8 to 15 years old, were recruited prospectively and assessed at baseline (ie, within 7 days of injury) and at 3 months postinjury. Parents rated PCS, motivation and affective lability, and behavioral adjustment. Baseline ratings assessed premorbid functioning retrospectively, and follow-up ratings assessed postinjury status. On both occasions, children completed neuropsychological testing, and those with mild CHI also underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Results: Children with mild CHI did not differ from siblings in baseline ratings of premorbid PCS but displayed higher ratings on several PCS at 3 months postinjury. Thirty-five percent of children with mild CHI showed increases in PCS, compared with baseline premorbid ratings, but none of the siblings did so. Children with mild CHI whose PCS increased from premorbid levels showed poorer neuropsychological functioning at baseline than did children whose PCS did not increase, although the differences had partially resolved by 3 months. They also displayed decreased motivation over time. Their behavioral adjustment was poorer and they had smaller white matter volumes on MRI, but the latter differences were present at baseline and did not change over time, suggesting that they existed prior to the injury.
Conclusion: Postinjury increases in PCS occur in a sizable minority of children with mild CHI and more often than among uninjured siblings. Increases in PCS following mild CHI are associated with premorbid neurological and psychosocial vulnerability, but also with postinjury decrements in neuropsychological and neurobehavioral functioning.