Post-traumatic amnesia

Post-traumatic amnesia is the transient state of altered brain function that may follow a traumatic brain injury. At a practical level, an individual has emerged from post-traumatic amnesia when he or she is fully orientated and with return of continuous memory. However, the clinical manifestations are often more complex, with numerous cognitive domains commonly affected, as well as behaviour. In the acute setting, post-traumatic amnesia may easily go unrecognised; this is problematic as it has important implications for both immediate management and for longer-term prognosis. We therefore recommend its careful clinical assessment and prospective evaluation using validated tools. Patients in post-traumatic amnesia who have behavioural disturbance can be particularly challenging to manage. Behavioural and environmental measures form the mainstay of its treatment while avoiding pharmacological interventions where possible, as they may worsen agitation. Patients need assessing regularly to determine their need for further rehabilitation and to facilitate safe discharge planning.

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