Patients with mild traumatic brain injury and acute neck pain at the emergency department are a distinct category within the mTBI spectrum: a prospective multicentre cohort study

Sophie M Coffeng, Bram Jacobs*, Myrthe E de Koning, Gerard Hageman, Gerwin Roks, Joukje van der Naalt

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: Acute neck pain (ANP) has recently been demonstrated to be a predictor of persistent posttraumatic complaints after mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). The aim of this study was to determine specific characteristics of patients with ANP following mTBI, their posttraumatic complaints and relationship with functional outcome. Methods: Data from a prospective follow-up study of 922 mTBI patients admitted to the emergency department (ED) in three level-one trauma centres were analysed. Patients were divided into two groups: 156 ANP patients and 766 no acute neck pain (nANP) patients. Posttraumatic complaints were evaluated 2 weeks and 6 months post-injury using standardized questionnaires and functional outcome was evaluated at 6 months with the Glasgow Outcome Scale Extended (GOSE). Results: ANP patients were more often female (p < 0.01), younger (38 vs. 47 years, p < 0.01) with more associated acute symptoms at the ED (p < 0.05) compared to nANP patients. More motor vehicle accidents (12% vs. 6%, p = 0.01) and less head wounds (58% vs. 73%, p < 0.01) in ANP patients indicated 'high-energy low-impact' trauma mechanisms. ANP patients showed more posttraumatic complaints 2 weeks and 6 months post-injury (p < 0.05) and more often incomplete recovery (GOSE < 8) was present after 6 months (56% vs. 40%, p = 0.01). Conclusions: MTBI patients with acute neck pain at the ED constitute a distinct group within the mTBI spectrum with specific injury and demographic characteristics. Early identification of this at risk group already at the ED might allow specific and timely treatment to avoid development of incomplete recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Article number315
Number of pages10
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26-Aug-2020


  • Neck pain
  • Mild traumatic brain injury
  • Outcome
  • Posttraumatic complaints

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