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Effectiveness of bed rest after mild traumatic brain injury: a randomised trial of no versus six days of bed rest
  1. J R de Kruijk1,
  2. P Leffers2,
  3. S Meerhoff3,
  4. J Rutten3,
  5. A Twijnstra1
  1. 1Department of Neurology, University Hospital Maastricht, The Netherlands
  2. 2Department of Epidemiology, Maastricht University, The Netherlands
  3. 3Faculty of Medicine, Maastricht University, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr J R de Kruijk, Department of Neurology, University Hospital Maastricht, P Debeylaan 25, NL 6229 HX Maastricht, The Netherlands;


Background: Outcome after mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) is determined largely by the appearance of post-traumatic complaints (PTC). The prevalence of PTC after six months is estimated to be between 20 and 80%. Bed rest has been advocated to prevent PTC but its effectiveness has never been established.

Objective: To evaluate the effect of bed rest on the severity of PTC after MTBI.

Methods: Patients presenting with MTBI to the emergency room were randomly assigned to two intervention strategies. One group was advised not to take bed rest (NO) and the other to take full bed rest (FULL) for six days after the trauma. The primary outcome measures were severity of PTC on a visual analogue scale and physical and mental health on the medical outcomes study 36 item short form health survey (SF-36) at two weeks and three and six months after the trauma.

Results: Between October 1996 and July 1999, 107 (54 NO, 53 FULL) patients were enrolled. Outcome variables in both groups clearly improved between two weeks and six months. After adjustment for differences in baseline variables, most PTC tended to be somewhat more severe in the FULL group six months after the trauma, but no significant differences were found. Neither were there any significant differences in the outcome parameters between the two groups after three months. Two weeks after the trauma, most PTC in the FULL group were slightly less severe than those in the NO group, and physical subscores of the SF-36 in the FULL group were slightly better. These differences were not significant. Patients in the FULL group reported significantly less dizziness during the intervention period.

Conclusions: As a means of speeding up recovery of patients with PTC after MTBI, bed rest is no more effective than no bed rest at all. Bed rest probably has some palliative effect within the first two weeks after the trauma.

  • mild traumatic brain injury
  • bed rest
  • FULL, patients advised to take full bed rest
  • MTBI, mild traumatic brain injury
  • NO, patients advised not to take bed rest
  • PTC, post-traumatic complaints
  • SF-36, medical outcomes study 36 item short form health survey
  • VAS, visual analogue scale

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