Hospital readmissions for traumatic brain injury are common

man in hospital bed

An estimated 1.7 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the United States every year. Research suggests that the injury and fatality associated with TBI may be even higher in rural areas, where immediate transportation to level 1 trauma centers may be less accessible. People who don’t receive timely, appropriate care for TBI are at high risk for readmission to the hospital and for continued complications during the recovery period. Currently, little research exists regarding the extent of TBI-related hospital readmission in rural areas, even though people living in these areas may be at particularly high risk for readmission.

A team of researchers in Arkansas conducted a review of a statewide trauma system to gather data on readmission rates in adults who suffered a TBI. Because Arkansas is a largely rural state serviced by a single level 1 trauma center, this population is ideal for examining the rates of and reasons for readmission in TBI patients who live outside of metropolitan areas. The researchers analyzed more than 3,000 hospital records of adults who were admitted to an Arkansas emergency department between 2010 and 2014. They found that:

  • Two-thirds of TBIs were caused by fall injuries, while motor vehicle collisions were the second-most common mechanism of injury.
  • More than 20% of patients were readmitted to the hospital at least once in the year following their injuries.
  • Of the readmitted patients, most returned to the hospital for altered mental status, shortness of breath, and chronic diseases (such as heart failure).

Readmission to the hospital in the year following TBI is common. Importantly, the interaction between TBI and chronic illnesses indicates the extent to which head injuries can complicate long-term treatment and exacerbate existing conditions. Timely medical intervention after TBI may be critical for reducing rates of readmission and ensuring a smooth, successful recovery.

Gardner J, Sexton KW, Taylor J, et al. Defining severe traumatic brain injury readmission rates and reasons in a rural state. Trauma Surgery & Acute Care Open. (August 2018).

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