Purpose: Agitation following traumatic brain injury (TBI) is perceived to limit the achievement of rehabilitation goals. The aims of this study were: (1) To examine the nature and incidence of agitation during TBI rehabilitation in an Australian sample; and (2) To explore the relationship between agitation and functional outcomes after TBI.
Method: Retrospective medical record review of 80 participants admitted for rehabilitation following TBI. Outcome data collected at discharge, 6 and 24 months post-discharge, included length of stay, duration of post-traumatic amnesia (PTA), community integration, functional independence and life satisfaction.
Results: Seventy per cent of patients demonstrated agitation during rehabilitation for an average of 32 days. Agitated patients experienced longer PTA duration, increased length of stay and reduced functional independence, specifically cognitive function, at discharge. These differences between agitated and non-agitated participants did not appear to persist and were not evident at follow-up 6 and 24 months post-discharge. Longer duration of agitation was associated with delayed PTA emergence, longer rehabilitation stay and reduced functional independence at discharge and follow-up.
Conclusions: A large proportion of patients with TBI experience agitation. Presence of agitation seems to limit rehabilitation gains at discharge. Longer duration of agitation is associated with persisting limitations to functional independence.