Disability in young people and adults after head injury: 5–7 year follow up of a prospective cohort study

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Abstract

Background:

Improvement 1–2 years after head injury is well established but the pattern thereafter is unclear. Past studies have not examined representative head injury populations and typically report findings in terms of functioning across social, psychological, neurobehavioural, or cognitive domains rather than global outcome.

Objective:

To determine the late outcome of a representative cohort of participants admitted to hospital after a head injury 5–7 years previously and to identify early and late factors correlating with persisting disability and change between one and 5–7 years.

Methods:

A representative cohort of head injured people whose outcome one year after injury was reported previously, were followed up 5–7 years after injury. Participants were assessed using structured and validated measures of global outcome (Glasgow Outcome Scale Extended), cognitive impairment, psychological wellbeing, health status, and social factors.

Results:

Of 475 survivors studied at one year, 115 (24%) had died by seven years. In survivors at 5–7 years, disability remained frequent (53%); and the rate, similar to that found at one year (57%). Sixty three participants (29%) had improved but 55 (25%) deteriorated. The persistence of disability and its development after previous recovery each showed stronger associations with indices of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem than with initial severity of injury or persisting cognitive impairment.

Conclusions:

Admission to hospital after head injury is followed 5–7 years later by disability in a high proportion of survivors. Persistence of disability and development of new disability are strongly associated with psychosocial factors that may be open to remediation, even late after injury.

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