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Keywords:

  • combat polytrauma;
  • health outcomes;
  • rehabilitation;
  • Veterans Administration

Returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan who have sustained polytrauma have a combination of complex physical and mental morbidities that require extensive therapy and rehabilitation. This study examined the effect of rehabilitation on 116 polytrauma patients with service-connected injuries treated at the Tampa VA; improvements in functional and cognitive abilities were measured using the Functional Independence Measure (FIM™) scores and healthcare costs for rehabilitation treatment were also assessed. Intensive rehabilitation therapy increased functional ability in this cohort with an average improvement in total FIM scores of 23 points. Total inpatient costs for these patients exceeded $4 million in approximately 3 years. Rehabilitation nurses face challenges providing quality care to this target patient population, including characterizing war-related polytrauma, providing surveillance, coordinating care, synchronizing care for patients with multiple injuries, and conducting evidence-based pain management.