Importance: Approximately one-third of children experiencing acute concussion experience ongoing somatic, cognitive, and psychological or behavioral symptoms, referred to as persistent postconcussion symptoms (PPCS). However, validated and pragmatic tools enabling clinicians to identify patients at risk for PPCS do not exist.
Objective: To derive and validate a clinical risk score for PPCS among children presenting to the emergency department.
Design, setting, and participants: Prospective, multicenter cohort study (Predicting and Preventing Postconcussive Problems in Pediatrics [5P]) enrolled young patients (aged 5-<18 years) who presented within 48 hours of an acute head injury at 1 of 9 pediatric emergency departments within the Pediatric Emergency Research Canada (PERC) network from August 2013 through September 2014 (derivation cohort) and from October 2014 through June 2015 (validation cohort). Participants completed follow-up 28 days after the injury.
Exposures: All eligible patients had concussions consistent with the Zurich consensus diagnostic criteria.
Main outcomes and measures: The primary outcome was PPCS risk score at 28 days, which was defined as 3 or more new or worsening symptoms using the patient-reported Postconcussion Symptom Inventory compared with recalled state of being prior to the injury.
Results: In total, 3063 patients (median age, 12.0 years [interquartile range, 9.2-14.6 years]; 1205 [39.3%] girls) were enrolled (n = 2006 in the derivation cohort; n = 1057 in the validation cohort) and 2584 of whom (n = 1701 [85%] in the derivation cohort; n = 883 [84%] in the validation cohort) completed follow-up at 28 days after the injury. Persistent postconcussion symptoms were present in 801 patients (31.0%) (n = 510 [30.0%] in the derivation cohort and n = 291 [33.0%] in the validation cohort). The 12-point PPCS risk score model for the derivation cohort included the variables of female sex, age of 13 years or older, physician-diagnosed migraine history, prior concussion with symptoms lasting longer than 1 week, headache, sensitivity to noise, fatigue, answering questions slowly, and 4 or more errors on the Balance Error Scoring System tandem stance. The area under the curve was 0.71 (95% CI, 0.69-0.74) for the derivation cohort and 0.68 (95% CI, 0.65-0.72) for the validation cohort.
Conclusions and relevance: A clinical risk score developed among children presenting to the emergency department with concussion and head injury within the previous 48 hours had modest discrimination to stratify PPCS risk at 28 days. Before this score is adopted in clinical practice, further research is needed for external validation, assessment of accuracy in an office setting, and determination of clinical utility.