Objective: To examine the effects of age on outcome in persons with traumatic brain injury.
Design: Longitudinal cohort design.
Setting: Level I trauma center.
Patients: A total of 411 hospitalized subjects with mild to severe traumatic brain injury prospectively studied to 1 year; their age range was 18 to 89 years.
Main outcome measures: Glasgow Outcome Scale, living situation, and employment.
Results: Increasing age is associated with increasing levels of psychosocial limitations, especially in persons 60 years of age and older. Part of the reason is the greater severity of injury sustained by older persons as reflected in longer coma (despite equivalent initial coma depth) and greater numbers of complications and surgeries for subdural hematomas. However, the consequences of traumatic brain injuries appear to worsen with increasing age at each level of brain injury severity examined, including the milder injuries.
Conclusions: Older adults clearly show less complete recovery 1 year after brain injury than younger adults, either because they have reduced reserves with which to tolerate brain injury or because their physiologic status creates a more destructive injury. Glasgow Coma Scale alone may underestimate the severity of brain injury in the aged as well as its associated consequences. Caution is advised in generalizing findings based principally on younger individuals to older adults with traumatic brain injuries.