Post-Concussion Symptoms and Disability in Adults With Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

J Neurotrauma. 2023 Jun;40(11-12):1045-1059. doi: 10.1089/neu.2022.0185. Epub 2023 Jan 18.


Studies investigating long-term symptoms and disability after mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) have yielded mixed results. This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to determine the prevalence of self-reported post-concussion symptoms (PCS) and disability following mTBI. We systematically searched MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, CENTRAL, and PsycInfo to identify inception cohort studies of adults with mTBI. Paired reviewers independently extracted data and assessed risk of bias with the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network criteria. We identified 43 eligible studies for the systematic review; 41 were rated as high risk of bias, primarily due to high attrition (> 20%). Twenty-one studies (49%) were included in the meta-analyses (five studies were narratively synthesized; 17 studies were duplicate reports). At 3-6 months post-injury, the estimated prevalence of PCS from random-effects meta-analyses was 31.3% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 25.4-38.4) using a lenient definition of PCS (2-4 mild severity PCS) and 18.3% (95% CI = 13.6-24.0) using a more stringent definition. The estimated prevalence of disability was 54.0% (95% CI = 49.4-58.6) and 29.6% (95% CI = 27.8-31.5) when defined as Glasgow Outcome Scale-Extended <8 and <7, respectively. The prevalence of symptoms similar to PCS was higher in adults with mTBI versus orthopedic injury (prevalence ratio = 1.57, 95% CI = 1.22-2.02). In a meta-regression, attrition rate was the only study-related factor significantly associated with higher estimated prevalence of PCS. Setting attrition to 0%, the estimated prevalence of PCS (lenient definition) was 16.1%. We conclude that nearly one in three adults who present to an emergency department or trauma center with mTBI report at least mild severity PCS 3-6 months later, but controlling for attrition bias, the true prevalence may be one in six. Studies with representative samples and high retention rates are needed.

Keywords: brain concussion; craniocerebral trauma; meta-analysis; post-concussion syndrome; prevalence;.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review
  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Concussion* / complications
  • Brain Concussion* / epidemiology
  • Brain Injuries* / complications
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome* / diagnosis
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome* / epidemiology
  • Prevalence