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Abstract

Background:

Multiple trauma is a cause of significant disability in adults of working age. Despite the implementation of trauma systems for improved coordination and organization of care, rehabilitation services are not yet routinely considered integral to trauma care processes.

Methods:

MEDLINE, Embase, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Allied and Complementary Medicine, Physiotherapy Evidence Database, Latin American and Caribbean Literature on Health Sciences and Cochrane Library databases were searched up to May 2011 for randomized clinical trials, as well as observational studies, reporting outcomes of injured patients following multidisciplinary rehabilitation that addressed functional restoration and societal reintegration based on the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health.

Results:

No randomized and/or controlled clinical trials were identified. Fifteen observational studies involving 2386 participants with injuries were included. The Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) approach assessed methodological quality as ‘poor’ in all studies, with selection and observer bias. Although patients with low functional scores showed improvement after rehabilitation, they were unable to resume their pretrauma level of activity. Their functional ability was significantly associated with motor independence on admission and early acute rehabilitation, which contributed to a shorter hospital stay. Injury location, age, co-morbidity and education predicted long-term functional consequences. Trauma care systems were associated with reduced mortality. The gaps in evidence include: rehabilitation settings, components, intensity, duration and types of therapy, and long-term outcomes for survivors of multiple trauma.

Conclusion:

Rehabilitation is an expensive resource and the evidence to support its justification is needed urgently. The issues in study design and research methodology in rehabilitation are challenging. Opportunities to prioritize trauma rehabilitation, disability management and social reintegration of multiple injury survivors are discussed. Copyright © 2011 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.