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Post Concussion Syndrome


What is post concussion syndrome?

Post concussion syndrome (PCS) is a group of symptoms that affect your nerves, thinking, and behavior. PCS develops shortly after a concussion and can last for weeks to months.

What causes PCS?

Any of the following that causes an injury to your head, neck, or face can cause a concussion:

  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Falls
  • Work accidents
  • Playing sports
  • An assault

What increases my risk for PCS?

  • You are older in age.
  • You have a substance abuse problem.
  • You have had a head injury before.
  • You have had a mood or anxiety disorder.
  • You were not in good health before your concussion.

What are the signs and symptoms of PCS?

  • Headaches or problems with your vision
  • Dizziness or poor balance
  • Forgetfulness or problems concentrating
  • Problems with sleep
  • Changes in your personality
  • Seizures
  • Depression or anxiety

How is PCS diagnosed?

Your caregiver will ask about your injury. Tell him when it happened, what hit you, and the force of the blow. You, or someone close to you, should tell him about any confusion you have or changes in your behavior. You may need any of the following:

  • A neurologic exam tests your memory and your ability to recognize familiar things. It will also show caregivers your eye, verbal, and muscle responses.
  • Blood and urine tests will be done to make sure there is no other cause for your symptoms. Infections and chemicals, such as alcohol, can affect your memory and behavior.
  • A CT scan is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your head. The pictures may show blood clots in the skull. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help caregivers see the pictures better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

How is PCS treated?

Treatment of PCS will focus on your symptoms. You may need any of the following:

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • Antidepressants may be given for depression and sleep problems.
  • Migraine medicines may be given for headaches.

What are the risks of PCS?

PCS may decrease your ability to function at home, school, or work. Symptoms of PCS lasting for more than 6 months become persistent post concussion syndrome. You may develop second-impact syndrome if you have another concussion before you have recovered from the first. Second-impact syndrome can be life-threatening.

How can PCS be prevented?

  • Wear a helmet and proper safety gear when you play sports.
  • Wear a seatbelt whenever you are in a motor vehicle.
  • Secure rugs in your home to prevent tripping.
  • Remove clutter such as cords and toys from walkways.
  • Install grab bars and handrails if you need support when you walk.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Avoid activities that increase your chance for another injury.
  • Rest to help decrease symptoms.
  • Ask about cognitive behavioral therapy. This teaches you skills to help with any thinking and behavior problems you may have. You will work with a therapist.

Where can I find more information?

  • Brain Injury Association
    1608 Spring Hill Road
    Vienna , VA 22182
    Phone: 1- 703 - 761-0750
    Phone: 1- 800 - 444-6443
    Web Address:

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You have nausea or vomiting.
  • You have trouble concentrating.
  • You have difficulty speaking or thinking.
  • Your symptoms get worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have a seizure.
  • You cannot stop vomiting.
  • You have trouble breathing.
  • Someone close to you sees that you are not responding.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.