Post-concussion Syndrome

Post-concussion syndrome (PCS) is a collection of neurologic symptoms that a person may experience after a brain injury. These symptoms may last for weeks or months.

About 40% of those who had a traumatic brain injury will develop symptoms of post-concussion syndrome within days or weeks of the injury. There is a greater likelihood of developing PCS symptoms following moderate or severe head trauma than after mild trauma. However, post-concussion syndrome can develop following mild head injury and in those who never lost consciousness.

The most common symptoms of PCS include:

  • headache
  • dizziness
  • vertigo
  • memory problems
  • difficulty concentrating
  • sleeping problems
  • restlessness and irritability
  • apathy, depression, and anxiety.

Some symptoms of PCS may be due to other disorders that may also follow a traumatic events, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression.

It is not known what causes post-concussion symptoms to persist in some individuals or why some people who suffer a mild traumatic brain injury develop post-concussion syndrome while others do not.

Post-concussion Syndrome Outcome

The prognosis for people with post-concussion syndrome is very good, with a majority of people having a complete resolution of symptoms.

For most people, post-concussion symptoms go away within a few days to several weeks after the original injury occurs. In other cases, symptoms may remain for 3 - 6 months, but most cases are completely resolved within that time.

PCS symptoms usually resolve in about 1/2 of people with concussion one month after the injury, and about two-thirds of people with minor head trauma are symptom-free within 3 months.

Treatment of Post-Concussion Syndrome

Those who have persistent symptoms of post-concussion syndrome may seek treatment. Although there is no effective treatment for post-concussion syndrome itself, there are treatments that help alleviate the associated symptoms.

For example, people can take pain relievers for headaches and antidepressants to relieve depression.

Physical and behavioral therapy may also be prescribed if there is difficulty walking, loss of balance and difficulties with attention. Ongoing disabilities may be treated with therapy to improve function at work, or in social or other contexts. Therapy aims to aid in the gradual return to work and other preinjury activities, as symptoms permit.

People with PTSD, depression, and anxiety can often benefit from treatment with medications and psychotherapy.

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Last updated: 5/13/2022