Objective: To compare 1-year and 5-year clinical outcomes in 2 groups of combat-deployed service members without brain injury to those of 2 groups with combat-related concussion to better understand long-term clinical outcome trajectories.
Methods: This prospective, observational, longitudinal multicohort study examined 4 combat-deployed groups: controls without head injury with or without blast exposure and patients with combat concussion arising from blast or blunt trauma. One-year and 5-year clinical evaluations included identical batteries for neurobehavioral, psychiatric, and cognitive outcomes. A total of 347 participants completed both time points of evaluation. Cross-sectional and longitudinal comparisons were assessed. Overall group effect was modeled as a 4-category variable with rank regression adjusting for demographic factors using a 2-sided significance threshold of 0.05, with post hoc Tukey p values calculated for the pairwise comparisons.
Results: Significant group differences in both combat concussion groups were identified cross-sectionally at 5-year follow-up compared to controls in neurobehavioral (Neurobehavioral Rating Scale-Revised [NRS]; Cohen d, -1.10 to -1.40, confidence intervals [CIs] [-0.82, -1.32] to [-0.97, -1.83] by group) and psychiatric domains (Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-IV [CAPS]; Cohen d, -0.91 to -1.19, CIs [-0.63, -1.19] to [-0.76, -1.62] by group) symptoms with minimal differences in cognitive performance. Both combat concussion groups also showed clinically significant decline from 1- to 5-year evaluation (66%-76% neurobehavioral NRS; 41%-54% psychiatric CAPS by group). Both control groups fared better but a subset also had clinically significant decline (37%-50% neurobehavioral NRS; 9%-25% psychiatric CAPS by group).
Conclusions: There was an evolution, not resolution, of symptoms from 1- to 5-year evaluation, challenging the assumption that chronic stages of concussive injury are relatively stable. Even some of the combat-deployed controls worsened. The evidence supports new considerations for chronic trajectories of concussion outcome in combat-deployed service members.
Copyright © 2020 The Author(s). Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. on behalf of the American Academy of Neurology.