JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Dysautonomia after traumatic brain injury: a forgotten syndrome?

OBJECTIVES: To better establish the clinical features, natural history, clinical management, and rehabilitation implications of dysautonomia after traumatic brain injury, and to highlight difficulties with previous nomenclature.

METHODS: Retrospective file review on 35 patients with dysautonomia and 35 sex and Glasgow coma scale score matched controls. Groups were compared on injury details, CT findings, physiological indices, and evidence of infections over the first 28 days after injury, clinical progress, and rehabilitation outcome.

RESULTS: the dysautonomia group were significantly worse than the control group on all variables studied except duration of stay in intensive care, the rate of clinically significant infections found, and changes in functional independence measure (FIM) scores.

CONCLUSIONS: Dysautonomia is a distinct clinical syndrome, associated with severe diffuse axonal injury and preadmission hypoxia. It is associated with a poorer functional outcome; however, both the controls and patients with dysautonomia show a similar magnitude of improvement as measured by changes in FIM scores. It is argued that delayed recognition and treatment of dysautonomia results in a preventable increase in morbidity.

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