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Expert Panel Survey to Update the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine Definition of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury.

OBJECTIVE: As part of an initiative led by the Brain Injury Special Interest Group Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Task Force of the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine (ACRM) to update the 1993 ACRM definition of mild TBI, the present study aimed to characterize current expert opinion on diagnostic considerations.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional web-based survey.

SETTING: Not applicable.

PARTICIPANTS: An international, interdisciplinary group of clinician-scientists (N=31) with expertise in mild TBI completed the survey by invitation between May and July 2019 (100% completion rate).

INTERVENTIONS: Not applicable.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Ratings of agreement with statements related to the diagnosis of mild TBI and ratings of the importance of various clinical signs, symptoms, test findings, and contextual factors for increasing the likelihood that the individual sustained a mild TBI, on a scale ranging from 1 ("not at all important") to 10 ("extremely important").

RESULTS: Men (n=25; 81%) and Americans (n=21; 68%) were over-represented in the sample. The survey revealed areas of expert agreement (eg, acute symptoms are diagnostically useful) and disagreement (eg, whether mild TBI with abnormal structural neuroimaging should be considered the same diagnostic entity as "concussion"). Observable signs were generally rated as more diagnostically important than subjective symptoms (Wilcoxon signed ranks test, Z=3.77; P<.001; r=0.68). Diagnostic importance ratings for individual symptoms varied widely, with some common postconcussion symptoms (eg, fatigue) rated as unhelpful (<75% of respondents indicated at least 5 out of 10 importance). Certain acute test findings (eg, cognitive and balance impairments) and contextual factors (eg, absence of confounds) were consistently rated as highly important for increasing the likelihood of a mild TBI diagnosis (≥75% of respondents indicated at least 7 out of 10).

CONCLUSIONS: The expert survey findings identified several potential revisions to consider when updating the ACRM mild TBI definition, including preferentially weighing observable signs in a probabilistic framework, incorporating symptoms and test findings, and adding differential diagnosis considerations.

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