Objective: To examine the contributions of injury severity, physical and cognitive disability, child and family function to outcome 30 months after traumatic brain injury (TBI) in children.
Design: A prospective, longitudinal, between group design, comparing function before and after injury across three levels of injury severity.
Subjects: One hundred and fifty children, 3.0–12.11 years old, admitted to hospital with a diagnosis of TBI. The sample was divided according to injury severity: mild (n = 42), moderate (n = 70), severe (n = 38). Children with a history of neurological, developmental, and psychiatric disorders were excluded from participation.
Main outcome measures: Post injury physical function, cognitive ability (incorporating intellect, memory, and attention), behavioural and family functioning, and level of family burden.
Results: A dose–response relation was identified for injury severity and physical and cognitive outcome, with significant recovery documented from acute to six months after TBI. Behavioural functioning was not related to injury severity, and where problems were identified, little recovery was noted over time. Family functioning remained unchanged from preinjury to post injury assessments. The level of family burden was high at both six and 30 months after injury, and was predicted by injury severity, functional impairment, and post injury child behavioural disturbance.
Conclusions: These results suggest ongoing problems for the child and significant family burden 30 months after TBI. The nature and severity of the physical and cognitive problems are closely related to injury severity, with child and family function predicted by psychosocial and premorbid factors.