Traumatic brain injury in the homeless: health, injury mechanisms, and hospital course

Kristine C. Dell, Jason Staph, Frank G. Hillary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Primary Objective Established literature demonstrates that homeless individuals experience both greater disease burden and risk of experiencing traumatic brain injury (TBI) than the general population. Similarly, shared risk factors for both homelessness and/or TBI may exacerbate the risk of repetitive neurotrauma within homeless populations. Research Design We leveraged a state-wide trauma registry, the Pennsylvania Trauma Outcome Study (PTOS), to characterize 609 patients discharged to homeless (58% TBI, 42% orthopedic injury (OI)) in comparison to 609 randomly sampled adult patients discharged to home. Methods and Procedures We implemented Chi-square tests to examine preexisting health conditions (PECs), hospital course, and injury mechanisms for both patient groups. Main Outcomes and Results Homelessness affects a greater proportion of nonwhite patients, and homeless patients present for care with increased frequencies of psychiatric and substance use PECs, and alcohol-positive TBI. Furthermore, assault impacts a larger proportion of homeless patients, and the window for overnight assault risk resulting in TBI is extended for these patients compared to patients discharged to home. Conclusion Given the shifting conceptualization of TBI as a chronic condition, identifying homeless patients on admission to trauma centers, rather than retrospectively at discharge, can enhance understanding of the challenges facing the homeless as they age with both a complex neurotrauma history and multimorbidity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1192-1200
Number of pages9
JournalBrain Injury
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Neurology


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