Background: Little is known about the outcome following moderate traumatic brain injury (TBI) (GCS 9-12). Most patients regain consciousness; however, the full magnitude of long-term cognitive and functional deficits is unknown.
Methods: We conducted a prospective observational study evaluating the outcome of patients suffering moderate TBI between October 1995 and March 1998. Long-term outcome was assessed by telephone interviews.
Results: A total of 79 consecutive patients were included. Average length of ICU and total hospital stay was 9.1 and 15.8 days respectively. The median GCS at 24 hours was 10 with 67% improving to GCS 15 by time of discharge. The presence of multisystem trauma did not affect outcome; however, age >/=45, initiation of enteral feeding after postinjury day 4 and the presence of pneumonia were all associated with longer lengths of stay and increased complication rates. Fifty-six (71%) patients were contacted for follow-up at an average of 27.5 months. GOS scores were 5 in 44%, 4 in 41%, 3 in 9%, 1 in 6%. Seventy-four percent of patients employed premorbidly returned to full-time work. Questions regarding cognitive and functional status revealed significant problems in the majority of patients.
Conclusions: Pneumonia, age >/=45 years and a delay in initiation of enteral feeding all increased the duration of acute care hospital stay following moderate TBI. In addition, cognitive, emotional, and functional problems following such injuries are extensive and long lasting. Physicians must be knowledgeable of these long-term sequela so they can provide the appropriate support and treatment to these patients.