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Systematic Review
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Patient-centered mild traumatic brain injury interventions in the emergency department.

INTRODUCTION: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) results in 2.5 million emergency department (ED) visits per year in the US, with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) accounting for 90% of cases. There is considerable evidence that many experience chronic symptoms months to years later. This population is rarely represented in interventional studies. Management of adult mTBI in the ED has remained unchanged, without consensus of therapeutic options. The aim of this review was to synthesize existing literature of patient-centered ED treatments for adults who sustain an mTBI, and to identify practices that may offer promise.

METHODS: A systematic review was conducted using the PubMed and Cochrane databases, while following PRISMA guidelines. Studies describing pediatric patients, moderate to severe TBI, or interventions outside the ED were excluded. Two reviewers independently performed title and abstract screening. A third blinded reviewer resolved discrepancies. The Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool (MMAT) was employed to assess the methodological quality of the studies.

RESULTS: Our search strategy generated 1002 unique titles. 95 articles were selected for full-text screening. The 26 articles chosen for full analysis were grouped into one of the following intervention categories: (1) predictive models for Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS), (2) discharge instructions, (3) pharmaceutical treatment, (4) clinical protocols, and (5) functional assessment. Studies that implemented a predictive PCS model successfully identified patients at highest risk for PCS. Trials implementing discharge related interventions found the use of video discharge instructions, encouragement of daily light exercise or bed rest, and text messaging did not significantly reduce mTBI symptoms. The use of electronic clinical practice guidelines (eCPG) and longer leaves of absence from work following injury reduced symptoms. Ondansetron was shown to reduce nausea in mTBI patients. Studies implementing ED Observation Units found significant declines in inpatient admissions and length of hospital stay. The use of tablet-based tasks was found to be superior to many standard cognitive assessments.

CONCLUSION: Validated instruments are available to aid clinicians in identifying patients at risk for PCS or serious cognitive impairment. EDOU management and evidence-based modifications to discharge instructions may improve mTBI outcomes. Additional research is needed to establish the therapeutic value of medications and lifestyle changes for the treatment of mTBI in the ED.

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