Doctors and other carers often overlook some important aspects of outcome amongst patients who have suffered head injuries, according to a new study published in BMC Family Practice.
The researchers interviewed patients who had suffered head injuries and highlight areas of outcome of importance to patients that are currently often overlooked by health care professionals. According to the authors, consideration of these areas may help to understand the effects of head injury and they suggest several simple measures that could help to improve outcome for patients.
The impact of brain damage caused by a head injury varies widely from patient to patient, but common consequences include fatigue, concentration difficulties, memory problems and headaches. Doctors and care providers often focus on these physical and cognitive effects when treating and rehabilitating patients who have had head injuries, reflecting the areas they consider to be important. However there has been little previous research into the views of patients themselves, the aspects of outcome that are important to them and what can be done to improve their recovery in these areas.
In order to identify consequences of head injury that were important to patients, Paul Graham Morris from the University of Edinburgh interviewed 32 patients who were still suffering effects of head injuries sustained between one and ten years previously. These interviews were then fully transcribed and analysed by a team including a health psychologist, a sociologist, a neuropsychiatrist and individuals from the head injury charity Headway.
Whilst many of the areas discussed by patients were already known, the study highlighted areas that may deserve more attention from doctors and caregivers. These included difficulties following and participating in group conversations, a sense of loss or grieving for the lifestyle they had before the injury, perceived discrimination and lack of understanding from others about the consequences of head injury, and self-consciousness caused by changes in physical appearance. The authors suggest that the rehabilitation of some patients may benefit from interventions such as lip reading training to help with group conversations, counselling to help overcome difficulties relating to loss and videos explaining typical consequences of injury which could be watched by injured individuals and their families.