The prevalence, treatment and outcomes of agitation among patients with brain injury admitted to acute care units

Brain Inj. 2012;26(9):1155-62. doi: 10.3109/02699052.2012.667587. Epub 2012 May 29.


Purpose: Agitation occurs in 70% of patients hospitalized with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and has adverse effects on length of stay and functional outcomes. Treatment involves pharmacological and behavioural interventions. Much research on TBI agitation has been conducted in intensive care or rehabilitation settings. This study aimed to identify agitation prevalence, treatment and outcomes among patients with TBI on acute care wards.

Methods: Data abstracted from the trauma registry and medical records of adult patients with TBI admitted to an acute care ward within a Level I trauma centre over 12 months.

Findings: From 219 patients, at least one agitation behaviour was present in 41% (n = 90) of patients. Clinically significant agitation was present in 8% (n = 18) of patients. Agitation behaviours included impulsiveness (30%), pulling at devices (21%) and decreased attention span (16%). Common interventions were reorientation (33%), constant supervision (32%) and benzodiazepines (30%). Agitated patients had longer length of stay (p < 0.001) and were less likely to be discharged home. Physical restraints, constant supervision, redirection, reorientation and environmental modifications were associated with agitation (p < 0.001).

Implications: Management of agitation among patients with TBI on acute care wards can present challenges to healthcare staff. Innovative approaches are needed to promote outcomes using available resources.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Critical Care / methods*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Discharge
  • Prevalence
  • Prognosis
  • Psychomotor Agitation / epidemiology
  • Psychomotor Agitation / psychology
  • Psychomotor Agitation / therapy*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antipsychotic Agents