OBJECTIVE: To investigate the occurrence of behavioural problems in patients with severe traumatic brain injury during the first year after injury and potential associations with outcome. An additional post hoc objective was to analyse the frequency of behaviours with need for intervention from staff.
DESIGN AND SETTING: In a prospective population based cohort study 114 patients with severe traumatic brain injury were assessed at three weeks, three months and one year after injury.
MAIN MEASURES: Assessments included clinical examination and standardised instruments. Agitation was assessed with the Agitated Behaviour Scale, the course of recovery by the Rancho Los Amigo Scale and outcome by Glasgow Outcome Scale Extended.
RESULTS: Agitation were most common at 3 weeks post injury and 28% (n=68) of the patients showed at least one agitated behaviour requiring intervention from staff. Presence of significant agitation at 3 weeks after injury was not associated with poor outcome. At 3 months agitation was present in 11% (n=90) and apathy in 26 out of 81 assessed patients. At 3 months agitation and apathy were associated with poor outcome at one year.
CONCLUSIONS: Most agitated behaviours in the early phase are transient and are not associated with poor outcome. Agitation and apathy are uncommon at three months but when present are associated with poor outcome at one year after injury. In the early phase after a severe traumatic brain injury agitated behaviour in need of interventions from staff occur in a substantial proportion of patients.