Quality of Life after TBI: Can it Really Improve?

Following a traumatic brain injury (TBI) it’s easy to focus on the negative changes that a person is going through. Often, studies measure how patients’ impaired cognitive, psychological, and behavioral functioning will affect their return to daily activities. In a 2014 study of 95 participants, Gould and Ponsford assessed the positive changes that a TBI has on a person’s quality of life (QoL). Each patient’s QoL was assessed at least once over a 4 year period to determine which areas had improved and which had declined.

The study found an initial decrease in QoL but 33 participants (34.7%) reported at least one positive change post injury. Patients who experienced no positive changes scored higher on the pre-injury quality of life scores, suggesting that they perceived their previous life as ideal—increasing their post-injury dissatisfaction and potentially indicative of the “good old days” bias. The most frequent positive change was in their value for relatives, highlighting the influence of environmental factors and social support. This is a new area of interest in TBI literature and it is possible that these individuals with positive changes searched deep within themselves to find benefit from their trauma.

Although early accounts of the negative impact of TBI on individuals, some studies reveal that QoL tends to improve over time. Gould and Posford say, “It is important for researchers and clinicians to understand the full range of outcomes after TBI from the perspective of the injured individual, rather than focusing only on negative changes.”

Being able to better understand a patient’s QoL could be monumental for improving the treatment of TBI. Gould and Posford conclude by saying, “Further research is required to better understand these individuals as a basis for translating this growing research interest into therapeutic guidelines to support injured individuals to maximize their post-injury QoL.”

To read the abstract for this article, click HERE.