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Brain injury could impact ability to make decisions

A new study has reportedly found that a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can significantly affect the patient's ability to make decisions in the days and weeks following such an injury. This means that brain injury patients may not be suited to make crucial decisions regarding their medical care or rehabilitation following an injury.

In the study, researchers examined about 90 brain injury patients, dividing them into three groups based on the severity of their injury. The first group had people with mild injuries, the second contained people with injuries that the doctors classified as 'complicated mild', and the third had people with moderate to severe brain injuries. The brain injury patients were also compared to a control group of about 40 people without such an injury.

The researchers evaluated the study participants on five standards of decision-making: expressing choice, reasonable choice, appreciation, reasoning and understanding. They found that patients in the 'mild' group showed little impairment of their decision-making ability one month after their head injury, while patients in the other two groups showed significant deficits in their ability to make decisions after the same amount of time.

Doctors, nurses and other professionals who work with patients in the aftermath of a traumatic brain injury should take note of the study results, according to researcher Kristen Triebel, Psy.D. "Until we know more about the time required for return to normal decision-making capacities," she said, "physicians need to carefully assess decisional capacity in their TBI patients, particularly those with complicated, moderate or severe TBI."

Source: Science Daily, "Head Injuries Often Impair Medical Decision-Making Skills," April 11, 2012

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