Elderly Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Patients: a cognitive profile

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OBJECTIVE: Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) generally has a good prognosis. Objective cognitive impairments in information processing speed, attention and memory can be present in the (sub)acute phase after injury, but they are found to recover completely at 3-months post-injury in the overall population. Still, a substantial proportion of patients experience persistent subjective cognitive complaints in the chronic phase after injury. Elderly mTBI patients differ from the overall population in injury mechanisms and proneness to secondary damage due to age-related changes in the brain, emphasizing the need to investigate them as a separate group. Given the rapidly aging population, more elderly will encounter mTBI. We aimed to examine the cognitive impairment, cognitive complaints and their association in elderly mTBI patients. PARTICIPANTS AND METHODS: A total of 52 mTBI patients aged 61 to 88 years (M = 71.5, SD = 6.9) at the time of injury and 42 healthy controls aged 60 to 80 years (M = 67.3, SD = 4.8) participated in the current study. The groups were controlled for sex and educational level. The Head Injury Symptom Checklist was administered to measure cognitive complaints (forgetfulness, concentration problems, slowness). Cognitive functions were measured only in patients by administering a neuropsychological test battery at a mean of 3,5 months post-injury (SD = 1, range = 2-6). The following cognitive domains were assessed: memory and attention, processing speed and executive control. A percentile score of 10 or lower on a neuropsychological test was considered impaired. The percentile scores on the neuropsychological tests were compared to a median of 50. RESULTS: Results showed that elderly mTBI patients experienced more often complaints of forgetfulness (p = .003) concentration problems (p = .029) and slowness (p < .001) than healthy controls. Additionally, cognitive impairment was found in 40% of the patients for tasks in the domain of memory and in 29% for tasks in the domain of attention, processing speed and executive control. A significant, moderate negative correlation was found between complaints of concentration and a test in the domain of executive functions (Rs = -.418, p = .003). CONCLUSIONS: These findings show that elderly patients have cognitive impairments in the domain of memory and attention, processing speed and executive control. Also, they experience persistent cognitive complaints of forgetfulness, concentration problems and slowness after suffering from mTBI. Increased complaints of concentration are associated with decreased performance in the domain of executive functions. In contrast, this relationship is lacking between complaints of forgetfulness and tasks in the domain of memory. In conclusion, this subgroup of elderly mTBI patients have cognitive impairment and cognitive complaints in the subacute phase after injury.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 29-Mar-2023
EventIBIA 2023 World Congress - Convention Centre Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Duration: 29-Mar-20231-Apr-2023


ConferenceIBIA 2023 World Congress


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