Following a minor concussion or head trauma, many patients do not receive adequate follow-up care recommendations from emergency room doctors, according to the findings of a new study.
Researchers from the University of Southern California found that those treated in emergency rooms for traumatic brain injury (TBI) are often not given information concerning the severity of their injury, or offered sufficient followup care crucial for their recovery.
The findings were published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open on May 25, examining data from more than 800 patients enrolled in the Transforming Research and Clinical Knowledge in Traumatic Brain Injury (TRACK-TBI) study, between February 26, 2014 and August 25, 2016.
The study looked at patients suffered a head injury and were treated at one of 11 different trauma centers across the U.S.
Overall, less than half of patients, or 42%, reported receiving additional education materials regarding their injury when they were discharged from the ER.
“There are gaps in follow-up care for patients with TBI after hospital discharge, even those with a positive finding on CT or who continue to experience post-concussive symptoms,” wrote study authors.
Traumatic brain injury can be suffered even from one minor blow, or bump, to the head. However, even mild trauma can cause serious brain damage. Symptoms of head trauma may include dizziness, nausea, headache, sensitivity to light, increased aggression, and disorientation.
About 44% of patients in the new study reported seeing a doctor or other medical practitioner within three months after the initial injury. Among the patients who experienced three or more moderate to severe concussion symptoms, only 52% reported having seen a doctor within three months after the injury.
Past research has shown that suffering a head trauma can cause serious long-term effects. It increases the risk a person may suffer from dementia later in life. Additionally, those who have suffered such injuries face a higher risk of going to prison.
Researchers involved in the latest study noted that only 39% of patients who had a diagnosis of head trauma on a CT scan had seen a doctor three months after the injury.
It can be especially crucial for concussion patients to follow-up with their doctor, as prior research has shown suffering a second TBI, even a mild injury, can cause serious side effects. It is important to make sure the patient has healed, or is on their way to healing, to prevent long-term damage if another injury should occur.
The researchers defined adequate follow up to include doctors offering brain injury educational material at discharge, doctors calling patients to inquire about their symptoms, or patients seeing doctors or another medical practitioner within three months after the injury.