This study examined multiple biopsychosocial factors relating to post-concussion symptom (PCS) reporting in patients with mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI), including structural (computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging [MRI]) and microstructural neuroimaging (diffusion tensor imaging [DTI]). Patients with mTBIs completed several questionnaires and cognitive testing at approximately one month (n=126) and one year (n=103) post-injury. At approximately three weeks post-injury, DTI was undertaken using a Siemens 3T scanner in a subgroup (n=71). Measures of fractional anisotropy were calculated for 16 regions of interest (ROIs) and measures of apparent diffusion coefficient were calculated for 10 ROIs. Patients were compared with healthy control subjects. Using International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10) PCS criteria and mild or greater symptom reporting, 59% of the mTBI sample met criteria at one month and 38% met criteria at one year. However, 31% of the healthy control sample also met criteria for the syndrome-illustrating a high false-positive rate. Significant predictors of ICD-10 PCS at one month were pre-injury mental health problems and the presence of extra-cranial bodily injuries. Being symptomatic at one month was a significant predictor of being symptomatic at one year, and depression was significantly related to PCS at both one month and one year. Intracranial abnormalities visible on MRI were present in 12.1% of this sample, and multifocal areas of unusual white matter as measured by DTI were present in 50.7% (compared with 12.4% of controls). Structural MRI abnormalities and microstructural white matter findings were not significantly associated with greater post-concussion symptom reporting. The personal experience and reporting of post-concussion symptoms is likely individualized, representing the cumulative effect of multiple variables, such as genetics, mental health history, current life stress, medical problems, chronic pain, depression, personality factors, and other psychosocial and environmental factors. The extent to which damage to the structure of the brain contributes to the persistence of post-concussion symptoms remains unclear.
Keywords: cognitive function; diffusion tensor imaging; outcome measures; prospective study; traumatic brain injury.