OBJECTIVE: The purpose of the present study was to evaluate progress in neuropsychological performance in children and adolescents with severe paediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI), from admission to the rehabilitation centre up to 3-12 years after the trauma. METHODS: Children and adolescents (n = 31, mean age at injury 11.8 years, SD = 3.8; at follow-up 18.8 years; SD = 4.5) who all had suffered a TBI participated. A comprehensive neuropsychological test battery was administered at the start of rehabilitation (T1), around discharge (T2) and in the long-term (at least 3 years after rehabilitation; T3). T1 and T2 were clinical assessments; T3 was executed as a follow-up measurement for this study. RESULTS: At T1 and T2, most problems were in the domains of attention, memory and executive functioning. At the start of rehabilitation most deficits were with performal intelligence (61%); at discharge (mean length of stay 411 days) considerably less children had severe deficits on the intelligence domain (23%). At long-term follow-up, most problems were in the domains attention, mental speed and memory. From admission to discharge 42% of the children improved on two or more cognitive tests; from discharge to follow-up this percentage was 13%. CONCLUSIONS: In this unique study a clinical cohort of children with severe TBI was followed for many years after injury. Most cognitive deficits were found in the early phase of rehabilitation. Most children did improve on cognitive functioning (40%) during the first year after their injury, whereas at follow-up most children had not changed. At follow-up, more than half of the children (54%) attended a regular school or had a regular job, corresponding to their age and pre-morbid functioning.
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