Traumatic Brain Injury in Domestic Violence Victims: A Retrospective Study at the Barrow Neurological Institute

J Neurotrauma. 2017 Feb 15;34(4):876-880. doi: 10.1089/neu.2016.4579. Epub 2016 Jul 8.


Domestic violence is a national health crisis, which affects people of all ages, races, and socioeconomic classes. Traumatic brain injury is common in victims because of the high frequency of head and neck injuries inflicted through abuse. These recurrent injuries can lead to chronic symptoms with high morbidity. We conducted a retrospective chart review of 115 patients with a history of head trauma as a result of domestic violence. All patients were seen in a subspecialty traumatic brain injury clinic, at which time information regarding their histories and self-reported symptoms were recorded. In total, 109 females and 6 males were included in our study, with an age range of 4-68 years. Overall, 88% reported more than one injury and 81% reported a history of loss of consciousness associated with their injuries. Only 21% sought medical help at the time of injury. Whereas 85% had a history of abuse in adulthood, 22% had experienced abuse in both childhood and adulthood, and 60% of the patients abused as children went on to be abused as adults. Headache was the most common chief complaint, but on a self-reported symptom severity scale, behavioral symptoms were the most severe. Psychiatric disease was present in 84% of patients. Traumatic brain injury is a frequent sequela of domestic violence, from which many victims sustain multiple injuries without seeking medical care. Brain injuries are often sustained over many years and lead to lasting physical, behavioral, and cognitive consequences. Better understanding of these injuries will lead to improved care for this population.

Keywords: adult brain injury; head trauma; traumatic brain injury.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Adult Survivors of Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Aged
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Comorbidity
  • Crime Victims / statistics & numerical data*
  • Domestic Violence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult