Aggression is common after traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in acute and chronic settings. However, there is limited guidance regarding its assessment and effective management. Whilst a number of pharmacological options are available for long term treatment, the evidence base is not of an adequate strength to support a unified practice. This article will explore the currently available guidelines and recommendations for treating chronic aggression after TBIs and evaluate the evidence for its pharmacological management.
Aggression is a long term neurobehavioural sequelae of TBIs with incidences quoted from 11.5-33.7%.1 In TBI patients, aggressive behaviour tends to be impulsive rather than premeditated and can manifest as episodic dyscontrol syndrome, disinhibition or exacerbated premorbid antisocial traits.2 The underlying mechanisms of aggression are complex allowing numerous and diverse interventions targeting various pathways.
In acute settings, Lombard and Zafonte (2005) describe non-pharmacological measures to manage aggression including environmental alterations and ensuring minimal or non-contact restraints. Screening for systemic causes, optimising pain control and patients’ sleep-wake cycle are also advocated. In the event of failed non-pharmacological treatment, Lombard and Zafonte (2005) recommend that medication choice should be tailored to individuals; with side effect profiles taken into consideration.3
For chronic aggression, psychological therapies are used as a first line with pharmacological interventions trialled in later stages.4 Psychological therapy options include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), behavioural management utilising operant learning theory and contingency management. However, a review by Alderman (2013) concluded that further evidence using scientific methods is needed to analyse these approaches.5 Comparatively, there is a diverse body of literature addressing long term pharmacological treatment although quality among studies are varied. This article will focus on the aetiology for chronic post TBI aggression, current management guidelines and the evidence for long term pharmacological interventions.[…]