Introduction: Abused women often report a wide range of physical and psychological symptoms that present challenges to providers. Specifically, injuries to the head or strangulation, may initiate neurological changes that contribute to central nervous system (CNS) symptoms. These symptoms are often attributed to mental health diagnoses in this population. The purpose of this analysis is to examine the prevalence of and associations between reported probable traumatic brain injury (TBI) and CNS symptoms in a sample of women of African descent. Methods: A convenience sample of 901 women of African descent from Baltimore, MD and the US Virgin Islands, aged 18-55, was used to examine relationships among self-reported intimate partner violence (IPV), TBI, and CNS symptoms. Data were collected via Audio Computer-Assisted Self-Interview. Results: Abused women who experienced a probable TBI were more likely to report CNS symptoms than those who did not. When controlling for demographics, IPV, and mental health symptoms, probable TBI was associated with a two point increase in CNS symptom frequency score (95% confidence interval: 1.55-2.93, p < 0.001). Conclusions: Women who reported both probable TBI and IPV were more likely than their abused counterparts who reported no TBI to report CNS symptoms. This relationship held true even when controlling for symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Clinicians working with women should be aware of TBI as a possible etiology for symptoms in abused women. Appropriate screening and treatment protocols should be designed and implemented across medical settings to improve outcomes for women who have experienced IPV and TBI.
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