Agitated Behaviors following Traumatic Brain Injury: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Prevalence by Post-Traumatic Amnesia Status, Hospital Setting, and Agitated Behavior Type

Ruby K. Phyland, Jennie L. Ponsford, Sarah L. Carrier, Amelia J. Hicks, Adam McKay

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Agitation is a common behavioral problem following traumatic brain injury (TBI); however, the precise proportion of patients who experience agitation in the early stages of recovery is unknown. The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to evaluate the prevalence of agitation in TBI patients undergoing inpatient care, and whether this prevalence differed by post-traumatic amnesia (PTA) status and setting (acute and rehabilitation). We also aimed to describe the prevalence of sub-types of agitated behavior (disinhibited, aggressive, and emotionally labile). We searched five databases and one clinical trials register, with additional review of websites and key journals to identify any relevant records up to July 2020. We included studies describing the proportion of hospitalized TBI patients age 16 years or older demonstrating agitated behavior. We included comparative studies with and without concurrent controls, randomized controlled trials, pseudo-randomized controlled trials, and case series. Methodological quality was critically appraised using a Joanna Briggs Institute checklist. Sixteen studies met eligibility criteria, with a total of 5592 participants. The pooled prevalence of agitation was 31.73% (95% confidence interval [CI], 25.25%-39.00%) during inpatient care (acute and rehabilitation), 32.23% (95% CI, 27.13%-37.80%) during rehabilitative care and 44.06% (95% CI, 36.15%-52.28%) for inpatients in PTA specifically. Disinhibited behaviors were the most common. There was substantial heterogeneity between studies. Additional high-quality research featuring large samples, frequent and long-term measurement of agitation, use of validated scales, and consideration of variables such as PTA status will further improve estimates of agitation prevalence following TBI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3047-3067
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Neurotrauma
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2021


  • aggression
  • agitation
  • inpatient care
  • post-traumatic amnesia
  • prevalence
  • traumatic brain injury

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