Early rehabilitation important for recovery after severe traumatic brain injury

Early rehabilitation interventions seem to be essential for how well a patient recovers after a severe brain injury. It might even increase the chances for long-term survival, according to researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy.

In a series of studies, Trandur Ulfarsson, doctoral student at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, has explored the long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries caused for example by accidents or violence.

The studies, where 280 Swedish and Icelandic participants were followed up 1-11 years after the injury, show a clear association between how quickly patients get access to rehabilitation and how well they recover.

Functional activity improved

'We found that the functional activity – for example how independent the patients are in their daily activities and how fast they can return to work – is substantially improved among those who are admitted to inpatient rehabilitation care early,' says Ulfarsson, who presents the results in his doctoral thesis.

The studies also show that severe often leads to an impaired pituitary function, most often lack of growth hormone, which in turn may cause obesity.

Being unemployed or on prior to the injury also seems to be associated with worse functional activities performance and quality of life several years after the injury.

Higher risk of dying

Moreover, the Gothenburg studies show that men who suffer a severe have a five times higher risk of dying 10 years after the injury; for women, the risk is eight times higher. These results confirm a recent study from Karolinska Institutet.

The increased risk can be attributed to illnesses and disabilities lingering on for several years after the injury.

'The participants reported lasting disability, and low quality of life, with a complex range of physical, cognitive, behavioral and emotional disturbance'.

Important information

Ulfarsson says that the studies provide important information for brain injury victims, their families and friends, and the healthcare sector.

'One conclusion is that a severe traumatic brain injury should be considered a chronic medical condition that requires professional care and support for a very long time. Our studies provide valuable information that will help us improve outcome predictions, optimise the rehabilitation process and evaluate treatment effects for these patients,' he says.

According to Ulfarsson, concrete factors that could increase long-term survival include admission to rehabilitation support at the right time, special interventions for patients who were unemployed or on sick leave prior to the injury, and assessment of pituitary function in overweight patients.

The doctoral thesis Predictors of long-term outcome after severe traumatic brain injury was presented 17 January.

More information: Link to the doctoral thesis: gupea.ub.gu.se/handle/2077/34395

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Neural spines operate like miniature neurons

25 minutes ago

Nerve cells use a much larger repertoire of data-processing structures than previously thought. Research at LMU and in Regensburg shows that the so-called spines on the dendritic processes of neurons are ...

The brain's electrical alphabet

Jan 23, 2015

The brain's alphabet is a mix of rate and precise timing of electrical pulses: the observation was made by researchers at the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) of Trieste and the Italian Institute ...

Dragnet for epilepsy genes

Jan 23, 2015

An international team of scientists together with the University of Bonn Hospital have taken a new path in the research into causes of epilepsy: The researchers determined the networks of the active genes ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.