For patients surviving serious traumatic brain injury (TBI), families and other stakeholders often desire information on long-term functional prognosis, but accurate and easy-to-use clinical tools are lacking. We aimed to build utilitarian decision trees from commonly collected clinical variables to predict Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS) functional levels at 1, 2, and 5 years after moderate-to-severe closed TBI. Flexible classification tree statistical modeling was used on prospectively collected data from the TBI-Model Systems (TBIMS) inception cohort study. Enrollments occurred at 17 designated, or previously designated, TBIMS inpatient rehabilitation facilities. Analysis included all participants with nonpenetrating TBI injured between January 1997 and January 2017. Sample sizes were 10,125 (year-1), 8,821 (year-2), and 6,165 (year-5) after cross-sectional exclusions (death, vegetative state, insufficient post-injury time, and unavailable outcome). In our final models, post-traumatic amnesia (PTA) duration consistently dominated branching hierarchy and was the lone injury characteristic significantly contributing to GOS predictability. Lower-order variables that added predictability were age, pre-morbid education, productivity, and occupational category. Generally, patient outcomes improved with shorter PTA, younger age, greater pre-morbid productivity, and higher pre-morbid vocational or educational achievement. Across all prognostic groups, the best and worst good recovery rates were 65.7% and 10.9%, respectively, and the best and worst severe disability rates were 3.9% and 64.1%. Predictability in test data sets ranged from C-statistic of 0.691 (year-1; confidence interval [CI], 0.675, 0.711) to 0.731 (year-2; CI, 0.724, 0.738). In conclusion, we developed a clinically useful tool to provide prognostic information on long-term functional outcomes for adult survivors of moderate and severe closed TBI. Predictive accuracy for GOS level was demonstrated in an independent test sample. Length of PTA, a clinical marker of injury severity, was by far the most critical outcome determinant.
Keywords: Glasgow Outcome Scale; classification tree; functional outcome; prognosis; traumatic brain injury classification tree.