Objective: To compare symptoms in patients with physiologic postconcussion disorder (PCD) versus cervicogenic/vestibular PCD. We hypothesized that most symptoms would not be equivalent. In particular, we hypothesized that cognitive symptoms would be more often associated with physiologic PCD.
Design: Retrospective review of symptom reports from patients who completed a 22-item symptom questionnaire.
Setting: University-based concussion clinic.
Patients: Convenience sample of 128 patients who had symptoms after head injury for more than 3 weeks and who had provocative treadmill exercise testing.
Independent variables: Subjects were classified as either physiologic PCD (abnormal treadmill performance and a normal cervical/vestibular physical examination) or cervicogenic/vestibular PCD (CGV, normal treadmill performance, and an abnormal cervical/vestibular physical examination).
Main outcome measures: Self-reported symptoms. Univariate and multivariate methods, including t tests, tests of equivalence, a logistic regression model, k-nearest neighbor analysis, multidimensional scaling, and principle components analysis were used to see whether symptoms could distinguish PCD from CGV.
Results: None of the statistical methods used to analyze self-reported symptoms was able to adequately distinguish patients with PCD from patients with CGV.
Conclusions: Symptoms after head injury, including cognitive symptoms, have traditionally been ascribed to brain injury, but they do not reliably discriminate between physiologic PCD and cervicogenic/vestibular PCD. Clinicians should consider specific testing of exercise tolerance and perform a physical examination of the cervical spine and the vestibular/ocular systems to determine the etiology of postconcussion symptoms.
Clinical relevance: Symptoms after head injury, including cognitive symptoms, do not discriminate between concussion and cervical/vestibular injury.