Primary objective: To investigate how many people return to work (RTW) after acquiring brain injury (ABI) due to traumatic or non-traumatic causes. Secondary objectives were to investigate the differences in outcome between traumatic and non-traumatic causes, the development of RTW over time and whether or not people return to their former job.
Methods: A systematic literature search (1992-2008) was performed using terms of ABI and RTW. The methodological quality of the studies was determined. An overall estimation of percentage RTW 1 and 2 years post-injury was calculated by data pooling.
Main outcomes and results: Finally, 49 studies were included. Within 2 years post-injury, 39.3% of the subjects with non-traumatic ABI returned to work. Among people with traumatic ABI, 40.7% returned to work after 1 year and 40.8% after 2 years. No effect of cause or time since injury was found. Some people with traumatic ABI who returned to work were not able to sustain their job over time. Changes of occupation and job demands are common among people with ABI.
Conclusions: About 40% of the people with traumatic or non-traumatic ABI are able to return to work after 1 or 2 years. Among those with acquired traumatic brain injury a substantial proportion of the subjects were either not able to return to their former work or unable to return permanently.