Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Long-term outcome after severe head injury.

Br Med J 1979; 2 doi: (Published 15 December 1979) Cite this as: Br Med J 1979;2:1533
  1. W Lewin,
  2. T F Marshall,
  3. A H Roberts


    From a consecutive series of 7000 patients with head injuries admitted to the regional accident service, Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford between 10 and 24 years earlier, every patient was taken who had been amnesic or unconscious for one week or longer. Of these 479 patients, all but ten were traced, and either the cause of death was established or the survivors examined. Ten years after injury 4% were totally disabled, and 14% severely disabled to a degree precluding normal occupational or social life. Of the remainder, 49% had recovered, and the rest were dead. Additionally, a selected series of 64 patients whose unconsciousness had been prolonged for a month or more were studied. Forty of these had survived between three and 25 years after injury and were re-examined. On the basis of age at injury, the worst state of neurological responsiveness, and the duration of posttraumatic amnesia, the outcome of head injury can be predicted reliably in most cases. Patients and relatives need more reassurance and simple psychotherapeutic support, especially in the first few months after injury. Extrapolation from our figures suggests that each year in England and Wales 210 patients survive totally disabled and another 1500 are severely disabled.