Aging with Traumatic Brain Injury: Deleterious Effects of Injury Chronicity Are Most Pronounced in Later Life
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Understanding the effects of age on longitudinal traumatic brain injury (TBI) outcomes requires attention to both chronic and evolving TBI effects and age-related changes in health and function. The present study examines the independent and interactive effects of aging and chronicity on functional outcomes after TBI. We leveraged a well-defined cohort of individuals who sustained a moderate/severe TBI and received acute inpatient rehabilitation at specialized centers with high follow up rate as part of their involvement in the TBI Model Systems longitudinal study. We selected individuals at one of two levels of TBI chronicity (either 2 or 10 years post-injury) and used an exact matching procedure to obtain balanced chronicity groups based on age and other characteristics (N = 1993). We found that both older age and greater injury chronicity were related to greater disability, reduced functional independence, and less community participation. There was a significant age by chronicity interaction, indicating that the adverse effects of greater time post-injury were most pronounced among survivors who were age 75 or older. The inflection point at roughly 75 years of age was corroborated by post hoc analyses, dividing the sample by age at 75 years and examining the interaction between age group and chronicity. These findings point to a need for provision of rehabilitation services in the chronic injury period, particularly for those who are over 75 years old. Future work should investigate the underlying mechanisms of this interaction towards the goal of developing interventions and models of care to promote healthy aging with TBI.