Objective: To investigate neuropsychologic, emotional, and functional status and quality of life (QOL) 3 to 5 years after moderate to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Design: Observational cohort.
Setting: Level I trauma center.
Participants: Consecutive adult admissions with TBI involving intracranial abnormalities, prospectively followed up for 3 to 5 years, with 80% follow-up.
Interventions: Not applicable.
Main outcome measures: Neuropsychologic functioning (Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test, California Verbal Learning Test), emotional status (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, Brief Symptom Inventory), functional status (Functional Status Examination, Glasgow Outcome Scale, Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey, employment), and perceived QOL.
Results: Significant functional limitations were observed in all areas. Recovery to preinjury levels ranged from 65% of cases in personal care to approximately 40% in cognitive competency, major activity, and leisure and recreation. Brain injury severity, measured by the modified Abbreviated Injury Scale, related to functional status and neuropsychologic functioning, but not to emotional or QOL measures. Length of impaired consciousness appeared to contribute to outcome more than did anatomic lesions.
Conclusions: The results provide representative estimates of long-term morbidity in patients with TBI involving intracranial lesions. The magnitude of morbidity was high. Although direct costs of TBI have received the most attention, the long-term consequences and their cost implications are much larger, unfold over time, and are borne by the survivors, their families, and the public subsidy system.