Send to

Choose Destination
Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Jul 20;(3):CD004170.

Multi-disciplinary rehabilitation for acquired brain injury in adults of working age.

Author information

Academic Department of Rehabilitation, King's College London, Regional Rehabilitation Unit, Northwick Park Hospital, Watford Road, Harrow, Middlesex, UK, HA1 3UJ.



Evidence from systematic reviews demonstrates that multi-disciplinary rehabilitation is effective in the stroke population, where older adults predominate. However, the evidence base for the effectiveness of rehabilitation following acquired brain injury (ABI) in younger adults is not yet established, perhaps because there are different methodological challenges.


To assess the effects of multi-disciplinary rehabilitation following ABI in adults, 16 to 65 years. To explore approaches that are effective in different settings and the outcomes that are affected.


We used a wide range of sources including: Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE (1966-2004), EMBASE (1988-2004), CINAHL (1983-2004), PsycLIT (1967-2004), AMED, the National Research Register 2004 and ISI Science Citation Index (1981-2004).


Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing multi-disciplinary rehabilitation with either routinely available local services or lower levels of intervention; or trials comparing intervention in different settings or at different levels of intensity. Quasi-randomised and quasi-experimental designs were also included, providing they met pre-defined methodological criteria.


Trials were selected by two authors independently, and their methodological quality rated, again by two independent authors. A third reviewer arbitrated when disagreements could not be resolved by discussion. A 'best evidence' synthesis was performed by attributing levels of evidence, based on methodological quality. Trials were sub-divided in terms of severity of ABI and the setting and type of rehabilitation offered.


Ten trials were identified of good methodological quality and four of lower quality. Within the subgroup of predominantly mild brain injury, 'strong evidence' suggested that most patients make a good recovery with provision of appropriate information, without additional specific intervention. For moderate to severe injury, there is 'strong evidence' of benefit from formal intervention. For patients with moderate to severe ABI already in rehabilitation, there is strong evidence that more intensive programmes are associated with earlier functional gains, and 'moderate evidence' that continued outpatient therapy can help to sustain gains made in early post-acute rehabilitation. There is 'limited evidence' that specialist in-patient rehabilitation and specialist multi-disciplinary community rehabilitation may provide additional functional gains, but the studies serve to highlight the particular practical and ethical restraints on randomisation of severely affected individuals for whom there are no realistic alternatives to specialist intervention.


Problems following ABI vary; different services are required to suit the needs of patients with different problems. Patients presenting acutely to hospital with moderate to severe brain injury should be routinely followed up to assess their need for rehabilitation. Intensive intervention appears to lead to earlier gains. The balance between intensity and cost-effectiveness has yet to be determined. Patients discharged from in-patient rehabilitation should have access to out-patient or community-based services appropriate to their needs. Those with milder brain injury benefit from follow-up, and appropriate information and advice. Not all questions in rehabilitation can be addressed by traditional research methodologies. There are important questions still to be answered and future research should employ the most appropriate methodology.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center