Does Additional Head Trauma Affect the Long-term Outcome After Upper Extremity Trauma in Multiple Traumatized Patients: Is There an Additional Effect of Traumatic Brain Injury?

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Musculoskeletal injuries are common in patients with multiple trauma resulting in pain, functional deficits, and disability. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are common in severely injured patients potentially resulting in neurological impairment and permanent disability that would add to that from the musculoskeletal injuries. However, it is unclear to what degree the combination affects impairment.


We therefore asked whether added upper extremity injuries or TBI worsened the functional, psychological, and vocational status in multiple trauma patients.


We retrospectively reviewed 281 patients with multiple trauma: 229 with upper extremity injuries but without TBI (Group I), 32 with concomitant upper extremity injuries and TBI (Group II), and 20 with TBI but no upper extremity injuries (Group III). We assessed patients with the Glasgow Outcome Score (GOS), Hannover Score for Polytrauma Outcome, SF-12 (Physical Component Summary Score and Mental Component Summary Score), medical aid requirements, need of psychological support, and vocational living circumstances. The minimum followup was 10 years (median, 17.5 years; range, 10-28 years).


Additional TBI in multiple trauma patients led to reduced function (GOS: Group I: 4.9 ± 0.2, Group II: 4.5 ± 0.7, Group III: 4.5 ± 0.8) resulting in vocational restrictions (job change: Group I: 74%, Group II: 91%, Group III: 90%). The combination of upper extremity and TBIs did not result in worse long-term scores compared with TBI alone.


Rehabilitation and social reintegration in multiple trauma patients with TBI requires particular emphasis to minimize disability and vocational isolation. Musculoskeletal injuries should not be neglected to ensure the maximum extremity function given the impaired cognitive functions after TBI.

Level of Evidence

Level III, therapeutic study. See Guidelines for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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