Journal of Rehabilitation Research & Development (JRRD)

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Volume 52 Number 7, 2015
   Pages 839 — 850

Abstract — Identification of pseudobulbar affect symptoms in Veterans with possible traumatic brain injury

Jennifer R. Fonda, MA;1–2* Phillip R. Hunt, ScD;3 Regina E. McGlinchey, PhD;1,4 James L. Rudolph, MD, SM;1,5 William P. Milberg, PhD;1,4 Matthew W. Reynolds, PhD;3 Charles Yonan, PharmD6

1Translational Research Center for Traumatic Brain Injury and Stress Disorders, and Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center, Department of Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, Boston, MA; 2Department of Epidemiology, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA; 3Retrospective Observational Studies, Evidera, Lexington, MA; Departments of 4Psychiatry and 5Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA; 6Health Economics and Outcomes Research, Avanir Pharmaceuticals Inc, Aliso Viejo, CA

Abstract — Pseudobulbar affect (PBA), a neurological syndrome characterized primarily by involuntary episodes of laughing and crying, can develop secondary to neurological conditions including traumatic brain injury (TBI). Veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have an unprecedented risk for TBI, primarily from blast-related munitions. In this cross- sectional study with linkage to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) clinical data, Veterans screening positive for TBI on the VA TBI screen (N = 4,282) were mailed packets containing two PBA symptom assessments: a single PBA symptom screen question and the Center for Neurologic Study-Lability Scale (CNS-LS) questionnaire. Seventy percent (n = 513) of the 728 Veteran respondents screened positive for PBA symptoms with a CNS-LS score of 13 or greater. There was strong concordance between PBA symptom prevalence measured with the single screening question and CNS-LS, with high sensitivity (0.87) and positive predictive value (0.93) and moderate specificity (0.79). Posttraumatic stress disorder (54% vs 32%), major depression (35% vs 22%), and anxiety disorder (20% vs 13%) were more common for Veterans with PBA symptoms than for those without. PBA symptoms were common in this Veteran cohort, were detected using simple screening tools, and often co-occurred with other psychiatric disorders common in Veterans.

Key words: cross-sectional surveys, depression, emotional lability, lability scale, nervous system diseases, pseudobulbar affect, pseudobulbar syndromes, PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, Veterans.


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