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Mild traumatic brain injury can have lasting effects for families, reports the American Journal of Nursing

More than 'just a concussion' -- nurses play key role in assessing impact on patient and family

Wolters Kluwer Health

October 16, 2014 - Families of patients with mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) may expect them to return to normal quickly--after all, it's "just a concussion." But mild TBI can have a lasting impact on families as well as patients, according to a review in the November issue of American Journal of Nursing. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.

"With the increasing numbers of people with mild TBI in the community, it's crucial for nurses to make this a part of assessment for early recognition and intervention," comments Maureen Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, Editor-in-Chief of American Journal of Nursing. "Nurses may often be the first health professionals who, hearing the complaints of the patient or family member, might recognize that they're having difficulty adjusting to the family impact of head injury."

Mild TBI Affects Families, Not Just Patients

The article by Kyong S. Hyatt, PhD, RN, FNP, of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center discusses the ways mild TBI can affect patients and families. Important causes of mild TBI include sports injuries, motor vehicle accidents, and falls. In addition, many veterans are dealing with TBI sustained while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. Yet so far, patient and family adjustment after mild TBI has received "scant" attention in the medical literature.

Patients with mild TBI may have a range of cognitive, physical, and psychological symptoms. In most patients, these symptoms resolve promptly--but "a subset experience persistent symptoms that create unique treatment challenges," Hyatt writes. The injured patient may express stress in the form of anger, depression, and anxiety--sometimes perceived by family members as a "personality change." Without prompt recognition and intervention, mild TBI can have a major impact in terms of reintegration into to the family, changes in family functioning, and disrupted family relationships.

Family members may not understand that the person may have difficulty doing everyday tasks--for example, balancing a checkbook or helping children with homework. The impact may be especially great for families that weren't functioning well before the injury.

Nurses have a critical role to play in recognizing and responding to the impact of mild TBI on family functioning. Hyatt writes, "Finding ways to help the patient and family manage emotional distress and accept enduring changes may be the key to postinjury reintegration."

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Click here to read "Mild Traumatic Brain Injury."

About American Journal of Nursing

American Journal of Nursing is the most honored broad-based nursing journal in the world. Peer reviewed and evidence-based, it is considered the profession's premier journal. AJN's mission is to promote excellence in nursing and health care through the dissemination of evidence-based, peer-reviewed clinical information and original research, discussion of relevant and controversial professional issues, adherence to the standards of journalistic integrity and excellence, and promotion of nursing perspectives to the health care community and the public.

About Wolters Kluwer Health

Wolters Kluwer Health is a leading global provider of information, business intelligence and point-of-care solutions for the healthcare industry. Serving more than 150 countries worldwide, clinicians rely on Wolters Kluwer Health's market leading information-enabled tools and software solutions throughout their professional careers from training to research to practice. Major brands include Health Language®, Lexicomp®, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Medicom®, Medknow, Ovid®, Pharmacy OneSource®, ProVation® Medical and UpToDate®.

Wolters Kluwer Health is part of Wolters Kluwer, a market-leading global information services company. Wolters Kluwer had 2013 annual revenues of €3.6 billion ($4.7 billion), employs approximately 19,000 people worldwide, and maintains operations in over 40 countries across Europe, North America, Asia Pacific, and Latin America.maintains operations in over 40 countries across Europe, North America, Asia Pacific, and Latin America. Wolters Kluwer is headquartered in Alphen aan den Rijn, the Netherlands. Its shares are quoted on Euronext Amsterdam (WKL) and are included in the AEX and Euronext 100 indices. Wolters Kluwer has a sponsored Level 1 American Depositary Receipt program. The ADRs are traded on the over-the-counter market in the U.S. (WTKWY).

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