For emergency nurses, it can be challenging to identify patients with a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) and how best to manage these individuals at discharge. A study has found that emergency nurses need to be aware that patients may have an MTBI regardless of their presenting symptoms or injury severity (see also: Caring for Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries).

In the study, researchers compared the frequency and severity of MTBI symptoms by discharge diagnosis in 52 ED patients at least 2 weeks after injury who were discharged with concussion or closed head injury, head laceration, motor vehicle crash (MVC), or whiplash or cervical strain diagnoses. Most participants (84.6%) reported having MTBI symptoms, and headache and fatigue were the most common. Female patients had almost twice as many symptoms, on average, as male patients. The majority of patients were more cautious after their injury.

Of all MVC patients in the analysis, 83.3% reported moderate severity scores for all four Post-Concussion Symptom Scale categories; these represented the highest overall severity scores. Although MVC participants reported the most severe MTBI symptoms, they had the least head injury education. Conversely, patients diagnosed with a concussion or closed head injury received the most head injury education.

Abstract: Journal of Emergency Nursing, September 2012.