Mortality Over Four Decades After Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation: A Retrospective Cohort Study

Cynthia L. Harrison-Felix, Gale G. Whiteneck, Amitabh Jha, Michael J. DeVivo, Flora M. Hammond, Denise M. Hart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

90 Scopus citations


Harrison-Felix CL, Whiteneck GG, Jha A, DeVivo MJ, Hammond FM, Hart DM. Mortality over four decades after traumatic brain injury rehabilitation: a retrospective cohort study. Objective: To investigate mortality, life expectancy, risk factors for death, and causes of death in persons with traumatic brain injury (TBI). Design: Retrospective cohort study. Setting: Used data from an inpatient rehabilitation facility, the Social Security Death Index, death certificates, and the U.S. population age-race-sex-specific and cause-specific mortality rates. Participants: Persons with TBI (N=1678) surviving to their first anniversary of injury admitted to rehabilitation from an acute care hospital within 1 year of injury between 1961 and 2002. Interventions: Not applicable. Main Outcome Measures: Vital status, standardized mortality ratio, life expectancy, cause of death. Results: Persons with TBI were 1.5 times more likely to die than persons in the general population of similar age, sex, and race, resulting in an estimated average life expectancy reduction of 4 years. Within the TBI population, the strongest independent risk factors for death after 1 year postinjury were being older, being male, having less education, having a longer hospitalization, having an earlier year of injury, and being in a vegetative state at rehabilitation discharge. After 1 year postinjury, persons with TBI were 49 times more likely to die of aspiration pneumonia, 22 times more likely to die of seizures, 4 times more likely to die of pneumonia, 3 times more likely to commit suicide, and 2.5 times more likely to die of digestive conditions than persons in the general population of similar age, sex, and race. Conclusions: This study demonstrated life expectancy after TBI rehabilitation is reduced and associated with specific risk factors and causes of death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1506-1513
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of physical medicine and rehabilitation
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2009
Externally publishedYes



  • Brain injuries
  • Cause of death
  • Life expectancy
  • Mortality
  • Rehabilitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation

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