Content » Vol 49, Issue 4

Original report

Visual dysfunction is underestimated in patients with acquired brain injury

Märta Berthold-Lindstedt, Jan Ygge, Kristian Borg
Dep. of Rehabilitation medicin, Dep of Clinical Sciences, Danderyd Hospital, Karolinska Institutet, SE-182 88 Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail:
DOI: 10.2340/16501977-2218


Objectives: More than 50% of human cerebral activity is related to vision. Visual impairments are therefore common after acquired brain injury, although they are often overlooked. In order to evaluate the prevalence of visual deficits in our Out-patient Brain Injury Program, a structured screening questionnaire, the Visual Interview, was administered.
Methods: A total of 170 patients with acquired brain injury, mean age 47 years, who were enrolled in the programme during 2010–12, underwent the Visual Interview. The interview consists of 18 questions concerning visual impairment and was performed on admission. The different types of visual impairment were compared with regard to sex and diagnosis.
Results: Fifty-four percent of the patients reported visual changes, mainly reading difficulties, photosensitivity, blurred vision and disorders of the visual field. Sixteen patients who did not experience visual changes also reported visual symptoms in 4–9 questions. Only slight differences were noted in the occurrence of visual symptoms when correlated with sex or diagnosis.
Conclusion: Visual impairments are common after acquired brain injury, but some patients do not define their problems as vision-related. A structured questionnaire, covering the most common visual symptoms, is helpful for the rehabilitation team to facilitate assessment of visual changes.

Lay Abstract

Vision problems after acquired brain injury often remain undetected
Vision is a sense that goes without saying and so fundamental that it is taken for granted. After acquired brain injury many different vision problems occur but are often overlooked. The patient is tired, has stopped reading books and newspapers and finds it difficult to look at a TV-screen, but does not realise that these shortcomings are due to vision disturbances. In this study we have used a questionnaire to catch vision changes after brain injury. We asked the patients concrete and direct questions about their visual experiences after their injury. More than 50 % had experienced changes of vision. Before we used this questionnaire we were not aware of how common these problems were in a Swedish group of patients and hence not able to help the patients properly.


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