Background: The collection of empirical data on the frequency, severity, and duration of functioning is a prerequisite to identify patient groups with long term or permanent disability.
Methods: We fielded postal questionnaires in a stratified sample of 8,564 injury patients aged 15 years and older, who had visited an emergency department in the Netherlands. Measurements were at 2.5, 5, 9, and 24 months after the injury and included a generic health status classification (EQ-5D), socio-demographic, and medical information. We analyzed determinants of long-term functional outcome by multivariate regression analysis.
Results: Five months after the injury health status of nonhospitalized injury patients was comparable to the general population's health (EQ-5D summary measure 0.87). Health status of patients admitted for 3 days or less improved until 9 months (0.82). For those admitted more than 3 days health status improved until 24 months (0.48 toward 0.67), but remained below population norms. Hospitalization, age and sex (females), type of injury (spinal cord injury, hip fracture, and lower extremity injury), and comorbidity were significant predictors of poor functioning in the long term.
Conclusions: Recovery patterns vary widely between nonhospitalized, shortly, and long hospitalized injury patients. Nonhospitalized injury patients recover within 5 months from an injury whereas a considerable group of hospitalized injury patients suffer from persistent health problems. Our study indicates the importance of health monitoring with an adapted longitudinal design for injury patients. The time intervals used should match the various stages of the recovery process, which depends on the severity of the injury studied.