In 1999 a report from the Royal College of Surgeons of England drew attention to the fact that, in the UK, there is little structured acute inpatient rehabilitation for patients admitted after traumatic brain injury (TBI). This paper reports the results of a retrospective study of acute inpatient rehabilitation (AR) after TBI, comparing aspects of resource use in 92 patients who received structured unit-based multidisciplinary AR with 97 patients who received usual practice. About 10% of patients admitted via casualty after TBI required AR after neurosurgical consultation or care. These patients remained in AR for a mean of 20.5 days; length of stay in an acute bed was not prolonged compared with patients in usual practice. Sixty per cent of patients discharged home from unit-based care were referred to community-based rehabilitation on discharge compared with no patients discharged home from neurosurgical care. There is an urgent need to discuss and plan at national level the structured secondary provision of acute rehabilitation after acquired brain injury.