Long-term outcomes after moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury among military veterans: Successes and challenges

Brain Inj. 2016;30(3):271-9. doi: 10.3109/02699052.2015.1113567. Epub 2016 Feb 6.


Objective: To assess long-term outcomes after traumatic brain injury (TBI) among veterans and service members.

Setting: Regional Veterans Affairs medical centre.

Participants: One hundred and eighteen veterans and military personnel, aged 23-70 years (median = 35 years), 90% male, had moderate-to-severe TBI (82% in coma > 1 day, 85% amnesic > 7 days), followed by acute interdisciplinary rehabilitation 5-16 years ago (median = 8 years).

Design: Cross-sectional analysis of live interviews conducted via telephone.

Main measures: TBI follow-up interview (occupational, social, cognitive, neurologic and psychiatric ratings), Community Integration Questionnaire, Disability Rating Scale (four indices of independent function) and Satisfaction with Life Scale.

Results: At follow-up, 52% of participants were working or attending school; 34% ended or began marriages after TBI, but the overall proportion married changed little. Finally, 22% were still moderately-to-severely disabled. However, 62% of participants judged themselves to be as satisfied or more satisfied with life than before injury. Injury severity, especially post-traumatic amnesia, was correlated with poorer outcomes in all functional domains.

Conclusions: After moderate-severe TBI, most veterans assume productive roles and are satisfied with life. However, widespread difficulties and functional limitations persist. These findings suggest that veteran and military healthcare systems should continue periodic, comprehensive follow-up evaluations long after moderate-to-severe TBI.

Keywords: Outcome; rehabilitation; social reintegration; traumatic brain injury; work.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / physiopathology
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / rehabilitation*
  • Community Integration
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Military Personnel*
  • Recovery of Function
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Veterans*