The management of mild and moderate head injuries

Neurosurg Clin N Am. 1991 Apr;2(2):437-55.


The majority of patients seeking medical care after head trauma have sustained injuries of mild or moderate severity, i.e., GCS scores of 13 to 15 or 9 to 12, respectively. Mortality rates under these circumstances are generally low; however, serious complications must be detected and treated early. The initial evaluation involves determination of level of consciousness and examination for the presence of focal neurologic deficits. Skull radiography has a limited role in the management of mild and moderate head injuries, but consideration must be given to local factors such as the availability of cranial CT. CT scanning is a safe, noninvasive, and generally cost-effective means of assessing patients at risk for developing intracranial complications. The role of MR imaging in evaluating minor head injuries is not yet established. Patients with an altered level of consciousness require hospitalization in essentially all cases. Selected patients with a GCS score of 15 also benefit from overnight hospitalization and observation. After mild and moderate head injury, significant neuropsychologic deficits are frequent, but are generally finite in their duration. Postconcussive symptoms are also generally self-limited. Although objective evidence suggests that structural brain damage results from mild injuries, the relationship between postconcussional symptoms and structural damage is unclear. Persistent postconcussional symptomatology probably arises from a combination of physiogenic and psychogenic causes. It is possible that early patient education and reassurance will reduce the incidence of prolonged postconcussional symptomatology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Concussion / classification
  • Brain Concussion / therapy
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / classification
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / therapy*
  • Brain Injuries / classification
  • Brain Injuries / therapy*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neurologic Examination*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed