The landmark study with new insights for brain injury rehabilitation

Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2022

A pioneering study by Brightwater researchers could lead to further improvements in rehabilitation for West Australians with an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI).

The ABI-RESTaRT study examined a range of health and rehabilitation data collected from more than a thousand clients of Brightwater’s Brain Injury Rehabilitation and Disability Support programs from March 1991 to December 2020. It is a landmark study in terms of the number of years of data studied, and the size and diversity of the cohort.

Brain Injury Research Lead, Dr Lakkhina Troeung and her colleague Dr Georgina Mann were able to access not only Brightwater’s internal clinical and rehabilitation data but also information from the WA Department of Health including any hospital and emergency department program admissions up to ten years before and after the brain injury occurred.

This method is called ‘data linkage’ and allowed the researchers to gain a greater understanding of all clients who have moved through Brightwater’s brain injury rehabilitation services over the past 29 years, through evaluating the short-term and long-term outcomes across the cohort.

The final report is comprehensive, encompassing findings from seven individual studies.

Among them is a profile of the cohort, who were found to be a complex and diverse population from a range of backgrounds and circumstances. Non-traumatic brain injury such as stroke was the most common cause of admission, while those who had experienced traumatic injuries such as accidents made up 35% of the cohort.

It was also found that many of the people who experienced an acquired brain injury had complex health needs including another significant illness or chronic condition on admission to Brightwater.

Examination of a range of outcomes for the cohort demonstrated that Brightwater’s services were most effective in helping people regain their functional abilities such as walking, driving, communicating.

The study also aimed to identify opportunities to strengthen and improve Brightwater’s brain injury services. While clients were able to make clinically significant gains in functional abilities at discharge, only small improvements in psychosocial wellbeing were observed.

In an examination of client survival rates over ten years, the study also found that clients who experienced severe social or psychological limitations at discharge had the poorest long-term outcomes, even if they had regained functional abilities.