Symptoms and Central Sensory Integration in People With Chronic mTBI: Clinical Implications

Mil Med. 2022 Jun 3:usac157. doi: 10.1093/milmed/usac157. Online ahead of print.


INTRODUCTION: Balance deficits in people with chronic mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI; ≥3 months post-mTBI), thought to relate to central sensory integration deficits, are subtle and often difficult to detect. The purpose of this study was to determine the sensitivity of the instrumented modified clinical test of sensory integration for balance (mCTSIB) in identifying such balance deficits in people with symptomatic, chronic mTBI and to establish the associations between balance and mTBI symptom scores in the chronic mTBI group.

METHODS: The Institutional Review Board approved these study methods. Forty-one people with chronic mTBI and balance complaints and 53 healthy controls performed the mCTSIB (eyes open/closed on firm/foam surfaces; EoFi, EcFi, EoFo, and EcFo) with a wearable sensor on their waist to quantify sway area (m2/s4). Sensory reweighting variables were calculated for the firm and foam stance conditions. A stopwatch provided the clinical outcome for the mCTSIB (time). Each participant completed the Neurobehavioral Symptom Inventory (NSI), which quantifies mTBI-related symptoms and provides a total score, as well as sub-scores on affective, cognitive, somatic, and vestibular domains.

RESULTS: The mTBI group reported significantly higher symptom scores across each NSI sub-score (all Ps < .001). The mTBI group had a significantly larger sway area than the control group across all mCTSIB conditions and the mTBI group had significantly higher sensory reweighting scores compared to the control group on both the firm (P = .01) and foam (P = .04) surfaces. Within the mTBI group, the NSI vestibular score significantly related to the mCTSIB sway area EcFi (r = 0.38; P = .02), sway area EcFo (r = 0.43; P = .006), sensory reweighting firm (r = 0.33; P = .04), and sensory reweighting foam (r = 0.38; P = .02). The average sway area across the 4 mCTSIB conditions was significantly (area under the curve: 0.77; P < .001) better at differentiating groups than the mCTSIB clinical total score. The average sway area across the 4 mCTSIB conditions had a sensitivity of 73% and a specificity of 71%. The clinical mCTSIB outcome scores were not different between groups.

CONCLUSION: People with chronic mTBI appear to have central sensory integration deficits detectable by instrumented measures of postural assessment. These findings suggest that central sensory integration should be targeted in rehabilitation for people with chronic mTBI.

PMID:35657326 | DOI:10.1093/milmed/usac157