Referrals to Early Specialized Rehabilitation after Traumatic Brain Injury during the Covid-19 Pandemic
Keywords:traumatic brain injury, pathway, early specialized rehabilitation, COVID-19, trauma centre
Objective: To quantify potential changes in direct referral to early specialized rehabilitation during the COVID-19 pandemic and the injury pattern of patients hospitalized with traumatic brain injury (TBI) at a level 1 trauma centre.
Methods: In this registry-based study, data were retrieved from the Oslo TBI Registry-Neurosurgery and included adult patients with injury-related intracranial findings admitted to Oslo University Hospital (OUH). The study focused on a period of time when OUH was in any level of preparedness because of the COVID-19 pandemic; March 2020 to August 2021. For comparison, the study used patients hospitalized for TBI in 2018 and 2019.
Results: A total of 1,310 hospitalized patients with TBI were divided into 2 groups; pre-pandemic and pandemic. Direct referral to early rehabilitation was maintained. Patient volume remained stable, and there were no differences between the groups regarding patient characteristics and acute management, although there was a significantly higher proportion of TBIs secondary to electric scooter accidents in the pandemic group. Results from univariable and multivariable logistic regression showed a multifaceted reality, but younger age, none or mild preinjury comorbidity and severe disability due to TBI at discharge from acute care remained stable strong predictors of direct referral to rehabilitation.
Conclusion: For patients with moderate-severe TBI, the direct pathway to early specialized rehabilitation was maintained during 2020–21. However, the pandemic continued and the long-term impact for rehabilitation services is not yet known.
After traumatic brain injury, early rehabilitation is important in order to achieve optimal functional outcome. The COVID-19 pandemic has put the health services under pressure, and hospitals in Norway were reorganized to be able to treat a large number of patients with COVID-19. Therefore, this study investigated to what extent the transfer to early rehabilitation has been affected and whether there have been changes in volume and characteristics of patients admitted to hospital with traumatic brain injury. In conclusion, the direct pathway to early rehabilitation was maintained during the pandemic years 2020 and 2021. Moreover, there was no change in the number of hospital admissions or patient characteristics, and acute management was maintained. However, the true long-term consequences for rehabilitation are not yet known.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Cathrine Tverdal, Cathrine Brunborg, Eirik Helseth, Nada Andelic, Marte Koch, Cecilie Røe, Mads Aarhus, Torgeir Hellstrøm
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