The study's authors include, (L to R), Drs. Alexandre McDougall, a former medical resident at UHN; and Meiqi Guo and Alan Tam, who are clinician scientist's at UHN's KITE Research Institute. (Photo: UHN StRIDe Team)

A study from UHN's KITE Research Institute has uncovered non-medical factors that influence why some people who are recovering from brain injuries stay in hospital longer than others.

"Over the years, we have faced rising health care costs and incidences of brain injuries requiring hospitalization," says Dr. Alexandre McDougall, a fellow at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City and a former medical resident at UHN, who is first author of the study.

"It is critical that we find a balance between the benefits of rehabilitation care and the burden of prolonged hospital stays."

The team analyzed data from 167 individuals with a brain injury who were admitted to an urban rehabilitation hospital in Toronto over a 12-month period to determine how social and emotional factors affected the length of their hospital stays.

The team found that patients who stayed in hospital longer than expected were more likely to live in communal settings – such as assisted living facilities, group homes or rooming houses – and less likely to have a driver's licence prior to injury.

"These factors may not necessarily indicate poor rehabilitation success," says Dr. Meiqi Guo, a clinician scientist at UHN's KITE Research Institute and co-senior author of the study.

"Rather, they highlight the intricate relationship between an individual's pre-injury circumstances and their unique recovery journey," adds Dr. Guo, who is also an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto (U of T).

"Considering patients' psychosocial factors, such as living settings or driving status, can help rehabilitation teams plan for potential challenges and provide more equitable care," explains Dr. Alan Tam, a clinician scientist at UHN's KITE Research Institute and co-senior author of the study.

"In addition to conserving health care resources, this approach could help patients get back to their homes and reintegrate into their communities faster," adds Dr. Tam, who is also a clinician in Quality and Innovation in the Department of Medicine at U of T.

This work was supported by UHN Foundation.

Acquired brain injuries are a major cause of health issues and hospital stays in Canada, and can significantly affect a person's independence, quality of life and ability to return to their community. (Photo: Getty Images)

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