Impact of PTSD treatment on postconcussive symptoms in veterans: A comparison of sertraline, prolonged exposure, and their combination

the PROGrESS Research Team

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Many Veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan struggle with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the effects of traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Some people with a history of TBI report a constellation of somatic, cognitive, and emotional complaints that are often referred to as postconcussive symptoms (PCS). Research suggests these symptoms may not be specific to TBI. This study examined the impact of PTSD treatment on PCS in combat Veterans seeking treatment for PTSD. As part of a larger randomized control trial, 198 Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation New Dawn (OIF/OEF/OND) Veterans with PTSD received Prolonged Exposure Therapy, sertraline, or the combination. Potential deployment related TBI, PCS, PTSD and depression symptoms were assessed throughout treatment. Linear mixed models were used to predict PCS change over time across the full sample and treatment arms, and the association of change in PTSD and depression symptoms on PCS was also examined. Patterns of change for the full sample and the subsample of those who reported a head injury were examined. Results showed that PCS decreased with treatment. There were no significant differences across treatments. No significant differences were found in the pattern of symptom change based on TBI screening status. Shifts in PCS were predicted by change PTSD and depression. Results suggest that PCS reduced with PTSD treatment in this population and are related to shift in depression and PTSD severity, further supporting that reported PCS symptoms may be better understood as non-specific symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-70
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
StatePublished - May 2024


  • PTSD
  • Postconcussive symptoms
  • TBI
  • Treatment
  • Veterans
  • Sertraline/therapeutic use
  • Iraq War, 2003-2011
  • Humans
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic/epidemiology
  • Veterans/psychology
  • Emotions
  • Afghan Campaign 2001-
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic/complications

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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