Many patients may not be receiving follow-up care after experiencing a concussion, suggests results from the TRACK-TBI study, published in JAMA Network Open.

“This is a public health crisis that is being overlooked,” says study co-author Geoffrey Manley, MD, PhD.

“If physicians did not follow up on patients in the emergency department with diabetes and heart disease, there would be accusations of malpractice. For too many patients, concussion is being treated as a minor injury,” adds Manley, a professor of neurosurgery in the UCSF Department of Neurological Surgery and member of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, in a media release from UCSF.

The TRACK-TBI study, led by researchers from University of California – San Francisco (UCSF) and University of Southern California (USC), refers to the Transforming Research and Clinical Knowledge in Traumatic Brain Injury initiative. The large, long-term, NIH-funded study collected and analyzed data from close to 3,000 traumatic brain injury patients from 18 top-level trauma centers nationwide.

In the study, patients who were treated at the emergency room for mild TBI or concussion were surveyed about their follow-up care, such as receiving TBI-related educational materials at discharge, a call from the hospital within 2 weeks after release, seeing a healthcare provider within 2 weeks, or seeing a healthcare provider within 3 months.

According to the findings, 44% of the 831 patients who completed questionnaires 2 weeks and 3 months after sustaining TBI reported seeing a doctor or other provider within 3 months. Of those patients, 15% visited a clinic that specialized in head injury. Approximately half of the patients saw a general practitioner, and close to a third reported seeing more than one type of doctor, explains a media release from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

Additionally, among the 279 patients with three or more moderate-to-severe post-concussive symptoms, 41% had not had a follow-up visit at 3 months after discharge. Approximately half of the patients were discharged without TBI educational materials.

“The lack of follow-up is concerning because these patients can receive adverse and debilitating symptoms for a very long time,” states lead author Seth Seabury, PhD, director of the Keck-Schaeffer Initiative for Population Health Policy at the University of Southern California, in the UCSF media release.

“Even patients who reported experiencing significant post-concussive symptoms often failed to see a provider. This reflects a lack of awareness among patients and providers that their symptoms may be connected to brain injury.”

[Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), EurekAlert]