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Post Traumatic Amnesia (PTA)

Disclaimer: This information sheet is for education purposes only. Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for your child.

What is PTA?

When a child/young person is `waking up' after coma, they may present in a confused or disorientated state. This period is referred to as posttraumatic amnesia (PTA) and is one of the stages of recovery after a traumatic brain injury.

PTA can last for hours, days or weeks depending upon the severity of the brain injury. When a child/young person is in PTA, they are unable to remember day-to-day events that have occurred, such as who came to visit them in hospital. They usually can remember up to the time of injury but have problems remembering what happened afterwards. Children/young people in PTA are often confused and disorientated which means they may not know where they are or what time of day it is. Most children/young people come out of PTA, even in the most severe cases.

What to do to help your child in PTA

It is important that when a child/young person is in PTA that they are in an environment where they are not over stimulated. They may not be able to cope with too much noise or activity. For this reason, it may be necessary to limit the number of visitors to one or two at a time. If they are agitated or restless and at risk of climbing out of bed, it may be necessary for their mattress to be on the floor whilst in hospital.

The positive aspect of PTA is that the child/young person will usually not remember much of what has happened to them during this time. Little pockets of memory may surface but most of this time will not be remembered.

How do you test PTA?

There are a number of ways of measuring the length of posttraumatic amnesia. At The Children's Hospital at Westmead, the Westmead PTA Scale is used. The scale is used for children 8 years and over. The scale consists of 7 orientation questions and 5 memory items.

When a child/young person is out of PTA the rehabilitation team will commence other assessments to see what specific changes have occurred following the brain injury. Treatments that involve more memory capacity can commence once a child is out of PTA.

The Children's Hospital at Westmead Rehabilitation Department
The Children's Hospital at Westmead
Cnr Hawkesbury Rd & Hainsworth St, Westmead
Locked Bag 4001, Westmead, 2145
Tel: (02) 9845 2132 - Fax: (02) 9845 0685

© The Children's Hospital at Westmead - 1997-2013

This document was updated on Thursday, 11 January 2006

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