Longitudinal Recovery Following Repetitive Traumatic Brain Injury

JAMA Netw Open. 2023 Sep 5;6(9):e2335804. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.35804.


Importance: One traumatic brain injury (TBI) increases the risk of subsequent TBIs. Research on longitudinal outcomes of civilian repetitive TBIs is limited.

Objective: To investigate associations between sustaining 1 or more TBIs (ie, postindex TBIs) after study enrollment (ie, index TBIs) and multidimensional outcomes at 1 year and 3 to 7 years.

Design, setting, and participants: This cohort study included participants presenting to emergency departments enrolled within 24 hours of TBI in the prospective, 18-center Transforming Research and Clinical Knowledge in Traumatic Brain Injury (TRACK-TBI) study (enrollment years, February 2014 to July 2020). Participants who completed outcome assessments at 1 year and 3 to 7 years were included. Data were analyzed from September 2022 to August 2023.

Exposures: Postindex TBI(s).

Main outcomes and measures: Demographic and clinical factors, prior TBI (ie, preindex TBI), and functional (Glasgow Outcome Scale-Extended [GOSE]), postconcussive (Rivermead Post-Concussion Symptoms Questionnaire [RPQ]), psychological distress (Brief Symptom Inventory-18 [BSI-18]), depressive (Patient Health Questionnaire-9 [PHQ-9]), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD; PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 [PCL-5]), and health-related quality-of-life (Quality of Life After Brain Injury-Overall Scale [QOLIBRI-OS]) outcomes were assessed. Adjusted mean differences (aMDs) and adjusted relative risks are reported with 95% CIs.

Results: Of 2417 TRACK-TBI participants, 1572 completed the outcomes assessment at 1 year (1049 [66.7%] male; mean [SD] age, 41.6 [17.5] years) and 1084 completed the outcomes assessment at 3 to 7 years (714 [65.9%] male; mean [SD] age, 40.6 [17.0] years). At 1 year, a total of 60 participants (4%) were Asian, 255 (16%) were Black, 1213 (77%) were White, 39 (2%) were another race, and 5 (0.3%) had unknown race. At 3 to 7 years, 39 (4%) were Asian, 149 (14%) were Black, 868 (80%) were White, 26 (2%) had another race, and 2 (0.2%) had unknown race. A total of 50 (3.2%) and 132 (12.2%) reported 1 or more postindex TBIs at 1 year and 3 to 7 years, respectively. Risk factors for postindex TBI were psychiatric history, preindex TBI, and extracranial injury severity. At 1 year, compared with those without postindex TBI, participants with postindex TBI had worse functional recovery (GOSE score of 8: adjusted relative risk, 0.57; 95% CI, 0.34-0.96) and health-related quality of life (QOLIBRI-OS: aMD, -15.9; 95% CI, -22.6 to -9.1), and greater postconcussive symptoms (RPQ: aMD, 8.1; 95% CI, 4.2-11.9), psychological distress symptoms (BSI-18: aMD, 5.3; 95% CI, 2.1-8.6), depression symptoms (PHQ-9: aMD, 3.0; 95% CI, 1.5-4.4), and PTSD symptoms (PCL-5: aMD, 7.8; 95% CI, 3.2-12.4). At 3 to 7 years, these associations remained statistically significant. Multiple (2 or more) postindex TBIs were associated with poorer outcomes across all domains.

Conclusions and relevance: In this cohort study of patients with acute TBI, postindex TBI was associated with worse symptomatology across outcome domains at 1 year and 3 to 7 years postinjury, and there was a dose-dependent response with multiple postindex TBIs. These results underscore the critical need to provide TBI prevention, education, counseling, and follow-up care to at-risk patients.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Injuries*
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic* / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life