Chronic impact of traumatic brain injury on outcome and quality of life: A narrative review

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Traditionally seen as a sudden, brutal event with short-term impairment, traumatic brain injury (TBI) may cause persistent, sometimes life-long, consequences. While mortality after TBI has been reduced, a high proportion of severe TBI survivors require prolonged rehabilitation and may suffer long-term physical, cognitive, and psychological disorders. Additionally, chronic consequences have been identified not only after severe TBI but also in a proportion of cases previously classified as moderate or mild. This burden affects the daily life of survivors and their families; it also has relevant social and economic costs. Outcome evaluation is difficult for several reasons: co-existing extra-cranial injuries (spinal cord damage, for instance) may affect independence and quality of life outside the pure TBI effects; scales may not capture subtle, but important, changes; co-operation from patients may be impossible in the most severe cases. Several instruments have been developed for capturing specific aspects, from generic health status to specific cognitive functions. Even simple instruments, however, have demonstrated variable inter-rater agreement. The possible links between structural traumatic brain damage and functional impairment have been explored both experimentally and in the clinical setting with advanced neuro-imaging techniques. We briefly report on some fundamental findings, which may also offer potential targets for future therapies. Better understanding of damage mechanisms and new approaches to neuroprotection-restoration may offer better outcomes for the millions of survivors of TBI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148
JournalCritical Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 21 2016


  • Axonal injury
  • Disability
  • Long-term outcome
  • Quality of life
  • Rehabilitation
  • Traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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