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‘Way past due’: Resource helps healthcare providers identify, treat brain injuries from domestic abuse

A new resource is the first to tell healthcare professionals how to treat brain injuries that are a result of intimate partner violence.

A new resource aims to help healthcare professionals treat brain injuries from intimate partner violence.

It’s the first to address how to specifically care for people with these brain injuries caused by their partners.

The Intimate Partner Violence Traumatic Brain Injury Medical Provider Resource was developed by a team of clinicians, researchers, advocates and people with lived experience in Canada and the U.S. It explains how intimate partner violence and brain injuries intersect, how to conduct a medical assessment and to manage injuries and follow-up that are suitable for the unique needs of these patients. 

“We know failure to receive appropriate medical care following acute brain injury from IPV can lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment of injuries,” Dr. van Donkelaar, one of the guide's authors and UBC professor and co-founder and scientific advisor for Supporting Survivors of Abuse and Brain Injury through Research, said in a press release. “It can also lead to the development of persistent symptoms and challenges and a return to environments where the survivor is at risk of recurrent and preventable injuries, and even death.”

Read: Pharmacies can be safe space for victims of domestic violence

Concussion has various effects, with severe forms causing seizures, sensorimotor issues, and problems with visual functioning and language. People with brain injuries from intimate partner violence are more likely to develop mental health problems and substance use conditions and have trouble with housing and safety. 

Frontline healthcare providers have low knowledge and awareness of this issue. That’s even though 44% of women who have ever been in an intimate relationship have experienced violence from a partner, according to Statistics Canada. Research suggests as much as 92% of them will have one or more brain injuries from them through strangulation or blows to the face, head and neck. 

“We hope this resource will empower more physicians and nurse practitioners throughout Canada, and worldwide, to step forward and help care for this frequently under-recognized and under-serviced patient population,” said Shelina Babul, who developed the Concussion Awareness Training Tool as part of her work with the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit at BC Children’s Hospital, saying she hoped it would be the foundation for international guidelines and be added to as additional clinical experience and research becomes available. “Ensuring women get the diagnosis and care they need to achieve healthy outcomes after abuse is way past due.”

Read: Quiz: How much do you know about diagnosis of concussion?

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