Life beyond severe traumatic injury: an integrative review of the literature

Australian College of Critical Care Nurses
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Critical Care, 2005, 18 (1), pp. 17 - 23
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It is only recently that recognition of the serious and debilitating sequelae of trauma has prompted exploration of outcomes beyond survival, such as disability, health status and quality of life. This paper aims to review the literature describing outcomes following severe traumatic injury to provide clinicians with a greater understanding of the recovery trajectory following severe trauma and highlight the issues faced by those recovering from such injury. Electronic databases, published reference lists and the Internet were searched to identify relevant literature. The heterogeneous nature of published literature in this area prohibited a systematic approach to inclusion of papers in this review. Trauma survivors report significant sequelae that influence functional status, psychological wellbeing, quality of life and return to productivity following severe injury. Key themes that emerge from the review include: current trauma systems which provide inadequate support along the recovery trajectory; rehabilitation referral which is affected by geographical location and provider preferences; a long-term loss of productivity in both society and the workplace; a high incidence of psychological sequelae; a link between poor recovery and increased drug and alcohol consumption; and valued social support which can augment recovery. Future research to evaluate interventions which target the recovery needs of the severely injured patients is recommended. Particular emphasis is required to develop systematic, sustainable and cost-effective follow-up to augment the successes of existing acute trauma services in providing high quality acute resuscitation and definitive trauma management.
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