Neurocognitive testing in the emergency department: A potential assessment tool for mild traumatic brain injury [2018]

Despite mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) accounting for 80% of head injury diagnoses, recognition of individuals at risk of cognitive dysfunction remains a challenge in the acute setting. The objective of this study was to evaluate the feasibility and potential role for computerised cognitive testing as part of a complete ED head injury assessment.

mTBI patients (n = 36) who incurred a head injury within 24 h of presentation to the ED were compared to trauma controls (n = 20) and healthy controls (n = 20) on tests assessing reaction time, speed and attention, episodic memory, working memory and executive functioning. Testing occurred during their visit to the ED at a mean of 12 h post‐injury for mTBI and 9.4 h for trauma controls. These tasks were part of the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery iPad application. Healthy controls were tested in both a quiet environment and the ED to investigate the potential effects of noise and distraction on neurocognitive function.

Reaction time was significantly slower in the mTBI group compared to trauma patients (P = 0.015) and healthy controls (P = 0.011), and deficits were also seen in working memory compared to healthy controls (P ≤ 0.001) and in executive functioning (P = 0.021 and P < 0.001) compared to trauma and healthy controls. Performances in the control group did not differ between testing environments.

Computerised neurocognitive testing in the ED is feasible and can be utilised to detect deficits in cognitive performance in the mTBI population as part of a routine head injury assessment.

Catherine M Lunter Ellen L Carroll Charlotte Housden Joanne Outtrim Faye Forsyth Annie Rivera Chris Maimaris Adrian Boyle Barbara J Sahakian David K Menon Virginia FJ Newcombe

Emergency Medicine Australasia, 03 September 2018