Does the length of post-traumatic amnesia and/or a loss of consciousness predict long-term cognitive impairment? The two clinical terms are not necessarily synonymous.
Motorcycle Accidents and Brain Injuries
The term post-traumatic amnesia, which refers to an anterograde amnesia, is defined as the period of time during which an individual can not store information into memory continuously. During the period of post traumatic amnesia (PTA), the patient often appears disoriented and confused. “Loss of consciousness” is a somewhat less well-defined term that is obviously subject to a good deal of interpretive bias and is not necessarily synonymous with PTA.
It appears to be the general consensus of those who have investigated outcome that the length of post-traumatic amnesia is generally directly correlated with the length of time it takes an individual to recover those cognitive functions, particularly attention and memory, that are most disturbed in post-concussion syndrome. That latter condition includes, by definition, a period of unconsciousness not greater than 20 minutes.
Loss of consciousness is not, of course, necessarily synonymous with PTA. Whether, in mild head injury, loss of consciousness is itself an absolute predictor of memory impairment is quite problematic.
Notably, those patients who suffered a loss of consciousness obtained significantly lower mean verbal intelligence quotients than those who had no such complaint. While both exhibited memory impairments, there was no correlation of the degree of memory impairment (by the Selective Reminding Test) between those who bad been rendered unconscious and those who had not.
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