Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD. Patient Handout

About Your Diagnosis
Postconcussional syndrome is a syndrome (or collection of symptoms) that may follow a concussion. A jarring injury to the brain results in a concussion. This seems to cause a mild abnormality in normal function of the brain. It is diagnosed by noting the presence of the symptoms that make up the syndrome in an individual who has experienced a concussion. It does not produce any abnormalities on physical examination or on any tests such as computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. It goes away on its own without treatment during a period ranging from weeks to months.

Living With Your Diagnosis
Postconcussional syndrome produces symptoms of headache, poor concentration, mild memory loss, irritability, trouble sleeping, bad dreams, and sometimes mild personality changes. These symptoms resolve completely during the course of weeks to months. Usually there is gradual improvement during this period. You should recover to your normal preinjury state. There are no permanent effects.

Treatment consists of watchful waiting until the symptoms resolve. There is no known treatment that hastens the course of the syndrome.

The DOs
There are no medicines that will shorten the recovery time. Mild analgesics such as acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen are usually helpful for the headache. Strenuous exercise may aggravate the headache, but exercise in moderation may help with relaxation and help with sleep disturbances by inducing suitable fatigue. Some individuals find biofeedback and relaxation techniques helpful. Altering of work or school environments to minimize the effects of any memory loss or difficulties in concentration may be helpful. Support from friends and family to help the individual with the syndrome remember that this is a temporary condition may be helpful.

The DON’Ts
You should probably avoid medicines such as stimulants or decongestants because they may aggravate the irritability. Because this is a condition that will take some time to resolve, it would be well to avoid potentially habit-forming medications such as narcotics, sleeping pills, or tranquilizers. Strenuous activity may aggravate the headache. Although this condition may last for several months, it is important to remember that it will resolve. You should avoid making life-changing decisions such as quitting school or changing jobs because of the symptoms that you are experiencing. It is a very good idea to avoid activities that would result in another concussion while you are experiencing postconcussional syndrome. Evidence suggests that repeated concussions may result in permanent brain injury or even death.

When to Call Your Doctor
You should call your doctor if you are having increasing symptoms over time or if your symptoms have not improved over the course of several months. It would be especially worrisome if you start to have symptoms such as increasing dizziness, blurred or double vision, loss of strength or coordination, vomiting, or increasingly severe headaches.

Brain Injury Association (formerly the National Head Injury Foundation)