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Injury severity at presentation is not associated with long-term vocational outcome in British Military brain injury
  1. Sardar Bahadur1,
  2. E McGilloway2 and
  3. J Etherington3
  1. 1Rehabilitation Medicine and Rheumatology, Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre, Epsom, UK
  2. 2Neuro-rehabilitation Medicine, Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre, Epsom, UK
  3. 3Defence Rehabilitation, Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre, Epsom, UK
  1. Correspondence to Major Sardar Bahadur, Rehabilitation Medicine and Rheumatology, 27 Horseshoe Close, London E143EP, UK; sbuk666{at}


Introduction Injury Severity Score (ISS) and GCS can be retrospective markers of injury severity, but if used by clinicians to decide on the treatment of acutely brain-injured casualties at the point of injury may potentially limit interventions on people who may ultimately survive with good functional outcomes.

Methods ISS/GCS and long-term outcomes were reviewed by assessing all UK military neurorehabilitation patients with an operational/combat brain injury treated over 4 years (February 2008–July 2012) at Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (Headley Court).

Results 34 participants from 9 operational tours of Iraq and Afghanistan were analysed. Overall, 44% of injuries were due to improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and 41% from gunshot wounds; 70.9% of injuries were penetrating wounds with the remainder due to blast/blunt trauma or combined injury. The primary injury was head/neck in 76.5%, although eight patients (23.4%) requiring neurorehabilitation were initially ‘non-head injury’. Eight patients (26.5%) sustained more than 10 injuries, and 18 had between three and nine injuries. Eleven patients (32%) had an initial GCS of 3, and 16 (47%) had ISS of 75 (deemed ‘unsurvivable’). All patients with ISS of 75 were long-term survivors. At 4 months after discharge, 47% (16) were fully independent, and a further 41% (14) were independent in own homes, but needed assistance with some activities, such as paying bills. Over three-quarters (27 patients, 79%) returned to full/part-time work, 11 of whom returned to military duties; 93% of ‘unsurvivable’ ISS, and 91% of patients with GCS of 3 were capable of returning/returned to work. In total, 7/11 casualties returning to military duties had major trauma ISS, and two were ‘unsurvivable’. All seven casualties with both GCS 3 and ISS 75 survived and returned to independence (help with some activities).

Conclusions ISS/GCS at the point of injury does not reflect eventual outcome. IEDs/gunshots cause the greatest number of injuries and the highest incidence of brain injury. Brain injury should be considered in every battlefield casualty, irrespective of whether the head/neck/spinal cord was avoided. ISS should not be considered indicative or predictive of long-term prognosis/quality of life/employability as brain injury in this small cohort is both survivable and recoverable. It should not be used as a retrospective guide to alter treatment pathways, as there is poor correlation with long-term outcome. Subsequent neurorehabilitation should always be considered because survival, return to independence and full employment are very likely.


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