Work-related difficulties in patients with traumatic brain injury: a systematic review on predictors and associated factors

Chiara Scaratti, Matilde Leonardi, Davide Sattin, Silvia Schiavolin, Michelle Willems, Alberto Raggi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To address the content of work-related difficulties and explore which variables are associated to or determinants of these difficulties in persons that suffered from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Method: Papers published between 1993 and February 2015 were included. Quality was judged as poor, acceptable, good or excellent. Determinants were extracted from longitudinal data, associated variables from cross-sectional data; variables were grouped by similarity. Evidence was judged as strong if the same results were reported by two or more good studies; limited if reported by one good and some acceptable studies. Results: Forty-two papers were selected (25,756 patients). Work-related difficulties were referred as unemployment, job instability or job cessation. Strong evidence of impact was found for: low educational level, pre-injury unemployment, Glasgow Coma Scale score and TBI severity, length of stay in acute and rehabilitation settings, lower Functional Independence Measure scores and presence of cognitive disturbances. Discussion: Evidence on the effect of rehabilitation interventions on TBI patients’ work-related difficulties exists, but is poorly measured. Future studies should address the sustainability of holistic and tailored interventions targeting employees, employers and workplaces and aimed to reduce the gap between work duties and worker’s abilities, using appropriate assessment instruments measuring difficulties in work activities.Implications for rehabilitationTraumatic Brain Injury (TBI) primarily affects young persons of working age causing a broad range of motor, sensory and cognitive impairments. A combination of variables related both to pre-morbid and to injury-related factors predict and are associated to work-related difficulties.While demographic and injury characteristics cannot be modified, some TBI outcomes (e.g. cognitive impairments or functional status) may be addressed by specific rehabilitative interventions: the knowledge of the specific work-related difficulties of TBI patients is of importance to tailor rehabilitation programs that maximize vocational outcomes.Rehabilitation researchers should give attention to vocational issues and use assessment instruments addressing the difficulties in work-related activities, in order to demonstrate the benefits of rehabilitative interventions on TBI patients’ ability to work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Mar 25 2016


  • Employment
  • ICF classification
  • review
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation


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