Return to work after acquired brain injury: Facilitators and hindrances observed in a sub-acute rehabilitation setting

Objectives: There is great variability in the rate of return to work for persons who have suffered from brain injury. The aims of this study was: 1) to describe employment status of persons with stroke or traumatic brain injury, one year after the incident and 2) to investigate the impact of injury/stroke severity, length of stay, the ability to perform activities of daily living and cognitive function on return to work. Participants and Methods: Information was collected from 72 persons; 48 with a diagnosis of stroke and 24 with a traumatic brain injury. All patients had attended to a Rehabilitation Centre with inpatient and outpatient facilities. Data of the above mentioned variables was gathered retrospectively and information about employment status was retrieved from the medical records. Results: After one year, 13 persons (≈ 18%), 5 with a stroke and 8 with a traumatic brain injury (one with mild brain injury, 9 with moderate and 3 persons with severe injuries) had returned to work. They had significantly shorter length of stay at the rehabilitation hospital and were younger than those that did not return to work. Somewhat better results at the neuropsychological screening were seen among those that returned to work, although with a significant difference only in the subscale assessing affect. Some persons with severe injury returned to work, while a majority of those with mild brain injury did not. Conclusion: Traumatic brain injury, younger age and less need of rehabilitation were associated with a higher rate of returning to work. Patients with stroke were older and seem to need more support in order to be successful in work return. It is of importance to reach primary rehabilitation goals, such as being ADL independent, as this was also favourable for work return. The impact of injury severity seemed complex and should to be further explored. Persons with mild brain injury should be followed-up with respect to work return. An important cognitive factor was ability to perceive and express affective responses, reflecting the need of social skills in today's work-life.


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