17 Feb 2016

Returning to work after major trauma

By Dr Jodie Abramovitch

In high income countries, injury-related deaths have decreased between 1990 and 2013. This higher likelihood for survival following serious injury is attributed to effective prevention strategies and improved patient care. However there is still a limited understanding of the quality of patients’ recovery, how long recovery takes, and the proportion of injured patients who suffer lifelong disability.  

Professor Belinda GabbeHead of the Pre-Hospital,
Emergency and Trauma Research Unit in the
Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medici
The aim of a study conducted by Monash researchers from the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine (DEPM) and the Department of Surgery, alongside trauma services based at the Alfred hospital and collaborators from a number of different institutes, was to describe the long-term return to work and function of major trauma patients.

Adult major trauma survivors were assessed between 2007 and 2012 in Victoria at 6, 12 and 24 months after leaving hospital. Of the 8128 patients who were followed up, 23% had returned to their pre-injury condition by 24 months. Of those working or studying prior to injury, 70% had returned to work/study by 24 months. These outcomes were found to be influenced by multiple factors including age, socio-economic status and presence of pre-existing health conditions.

This study concluded that function and return to work improved with time following injury thus indicating that further improvements in health and quality of life may be expected after 24 months. However, ongoing disability was still prevalent at 24 months highlighting the need for future studies spanning longer than 24 months to fully assess the burden of major trauma on the lives of those affected.

The data collected in this study will assist with predicting the outcome of major trauma for individual patients and improve trauma services. This study also advocates for the improvement of rehabilitative and disability services to better the long-term health outcomes for patients.

Reference: Gabbe BJSimpson PMHarrison JELyons RAAmeratunga SPonsford JFitzgerald MJudson RCollie ACameron PAReturn to Work and Functional Outcomes After Major Trauma: Who Recovers, When and How Well? Ann Surg. 2016 Jan.
doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000001564

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