Post-Traumatic Injury Recovery and a Patient’s Long Term Prognosis
By Arthur D. Leritz, Richard H. Adler
July 30, 2014
One major concern for those involved a traumatic injury such as a motor vehicle collision is how long recovery will take from their injuries and when will they be all better. Medical research and our experience as attorneys has shown that there are many factors which affect a patient’s recovery period, including a patient’s age and occupation, pre-injury health condition, biomechanics of how the trauma occurred, and severity of injury, to name a few.
Research on this topic has been conducted over the years which have produced varying results. But more recent research is finding that many patients with musculoskeletal complaints such as a neck injury or whiplash continue to have symptoms beyond the one year mark.
For instance, a 2014 study of researchers in France recently conducted a study of 173 patients with whiplash and 207 individuals with “mild” injuries. The study revealed over 50% of the whiplash patients were still symptomatic 12 months post-collision while 57% of the patients with mild injuries reported full recovery. One of the biggest contributing factors to ongoing pain and a strong predictor for poor quality of life was post-traumatic stress disorder.
Another recent study examining 866 patients involved in a motor vehicle collision found that 45% of persons with mild-to-moderate injuries reported full recovery at one year post-collision, with 55% reporting no full recovery and e only 20% of patient with severe injuries had recovered fully. 20% of the entire study group reported permanent pain. Over half (55%) of the severely injured patients reported an adverse impact on the daily life of their family as a result of their injuries, compared to 22% of patients in the mild-to-moderate category. Most subjects in the severely injured category reported impact on their leisure and emotional life. 20% reported relationship difficulties, 16% reported impaired sexual life, and the separation rate for severely injured patients was much higher (5%) than subjects in the mild-to-moderate injury group (1%). The study concluded that the overall impact of a motor vehicle collision is significant one year post injury. Persistent pain which impairs the patient’s daily life is a problem for many, and there was an elevated rate of chronic PTSD.
In 2010, researchers in Japan published a study examining long-term residuals of Whiplash Associated Disorders (WAD). A significant number of the study subjects reported ongoing symptoms up to 10 years post-injury. Although most WAD patients reported improvement in their symptoms at the 10 year mark, they still experienced increased rates of neck pain, shoulder stiffness, headaches and upper extremity numbness, compared to the control group. More than 25% of the WAD patients reported neck pain, versus only 10% of the control group. WAD patients were also more than four times likely to experience headaches.
As noted in From Injury to Action, by Seattle attorney and patient-advocate, Richard Adler:
“Though studies are useful to provide a basis for establishing that musculoskeletal injuries result in chronic problems, explaining why it occurs is of critical importance in a traumatic injury case. Your traumatic injury can potentially result in long-term pain and needs to be fully evaluated by the best health care providers, often from different areas of specialization. For example, your primary care physician’s assessment, diagnosis, and explanation of the ongoing cause of pain may be different from other providers such as a chiropractors, spine specialists, neurologists, or surgeons. Having multiple health care providers weigh-in with their opinions, may provide the type of evidence to establish the validity of your ongoing symptoms. After all, the insurance company on the opposite side of your claim will have access to hired gun doctors from different specialties trying to discredit you, your treatment expenses, and your doctors’ opinions.”
The attorneys at Adler Giersch, ps are available to assist those who are injured by the negligence of others to access proper medical care and other resources and support necessary to make a full recovery.
 Matsumoto M, et al. Prospective ten-year follow-up study comparing patients with whiplash-associated disorders and asymptomatic subjects using magnetic resonance imaging. Spine 2010. 34:18. Pp. 1684-1690.