Misdiagnosed childhood head injury linked to later problems - study

Israeli researchers found that one in four children who have suffered a minor head injury are liable to suffer from chronic post-concussion syndrome.

 President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal visit children in Shaare Zedek Medical Center an give them gifts for Purim. (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal visit children in Shaare Zedek Medical Center an give them gifts for Purim.
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

A head injury during childhood, especially when misdiagnosed and not properly treated, can lead to prolonged lifelong suffering, a new collaborative study by Tel Aviv University, Kaplan Medical Center and Shamir Medical Center has found.

1 in 4 are misdiagnosed

Unlike damage to large arteries and noticeable damage to brain tissue, a minor head injury may not be detected on a CAT scan or MRI, making it a challenge to diagnose. 

The research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, states that one in four children (25.3%) who have been discharged from the emergency room after a mild head injury are misdiagnosed and continue to suffer from persistent post-concussion syndrome for years to come.

This syndrome includes chronic symptoms such as forgetfulness, memory problems, sensitivity to light and noise, ADHD and even psychological problems. However, instead of receiving treatment for the correct condition, they are mistakenly diagnosed as suffering from ADHD, sleep disorders or depression. 

 Tel Aviv University Campus (credit: COURTESY TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY) Tel Aviv University Campus (credit: COURTESY TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY)

To come to this realization, the researchers examined 200 children who had suffered from a head injury and who were released from the emergency room after the need for medical intervention was ruled out. The children were tracked for a period of between six months and three years from their date of discharge.

Researchers found that over a quarter of children released from the emergency room suffered from chronic post-concussion syndrome.

"The objective of our study was to determine how many children in Israel suffer from persistent post-concussion syndrome," Dr. Eli Fried of Kaplan Medical Center said. “The children participating in the study arrived at the emergency room with mild head trauma and, after staying overnight for observation or being sent for a CAT scan of the head, they were discharged to go home."

"It should be understood that the consequences of brain injury during childhood continue throughout life," added Dr. Uri Bella, Director of the Pediatric Emergency Room at the Kaplan Medical Center. "Loss of any brain function will prevent the child from realizing his or her potential in education and in social life."