Background: Although there are nearly a quarter of a million hospitalizations for traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the United States each year, data on the outcomes and costs of TBI treatment in the acute-care setting are limited.
Methods: Using a large, geographically diverse, multihospital database, we examined inpatient records for persons aged 16 years or older who were hospitalized for TBI between January 1, 1997, and June 30, 1999. Patients were stratified by TBI severity using an adaptation of the Abbreviated Injury Scale for administrative data (ICD/AIS), as follows: 2 = "moderate"; 3 = "serious"; 4 = "severe"; and 5 = "critical." Patient characteristics, patterns of treatment, and outcomes and costs were examined by injury severity and mechanism of injury.
Results: Of 8,717 study subjects identified, 12.5% had moderate, 44.8% had serious, 29.6% had severe, and 13.2% had critical TBI. Falls were the most common reported cause of injury (40.8%), followed by motor vehicle crashes (39.3%), blows to the head (11.3%), and gunshot wounds (2.4%). Average length of stay in hospital ranged from 6.7 days for moderate TBI to 17.5 days for critical TBI. The overall rate of death in hospital was relatively low among patients with moderate (1.3%), serious (5.7%), and severe (8.7%) TBIs, but much higher among the most critically injured patients (52.0%). Costs of hospitalization averaged 8,189 dollars for moderate, 14,603 dollars for serious, 16,788 dollars for severe, and 33,537 dollars for critical TBI. Costs also varied by injury type, averaging 20,084 dollars for gunshot wounds, 20,522 dollars for motor vehicle crashes, 15,860 dollars for falls, and 19,949 dollars for blows to the head.
Conclusion: The economic burden of TBI in the acute-care setting is substantial; treatment outcomes and costs vary considerably by TBI severity and mechanism of injury.