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Sexuality After Traumatic Brain Injury

Principal Investigator: Angelle M. Sander, Ph.D.
Co-Investigators: Margaret Struchen, Ph.D.; Mark Sherer, Ph.D., ABPP-CN; Allison Clark, Ph.D.; Gayle Whiteneck, Ph.D. (Craig Hospital, Colorado); Allen Brown, Ph.D. (Mayo Clinic, Minnesota); Flora Hammond, Ph.D. (Carolina Rehabilitation Institute, North Carolina)

Angelle Sander, Ph.D, co-director of the Brain Injury Research Center at TIRR Memorial Hermann and assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Baylor College of Medicine, will lead the sexuality project.

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to determine the frequency, type and severity of changes in sexual functioning associated with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Unique contributions of the current study will include:

  • Recruitment of a large, prospective sample
  • Use of a standardized measure of sexual functioning (Derogatis Interview for Sexual Functioning) with normative data for comparison
  • Comparison of males and females with regard to sexual changes
  • Inclusion of two assessment time points (six months and one year post-TBI) to determine changes in sexual functioning over time
  • Determination of medical and psychosocial predictors of sexual functioning
  • Inclusions of the views of partners

Participants: The four participating centers are expected to enroll approximately 500 persons across 4 ½ years of data collection. All persons who are admitted to inpatient rehabilitation with TBI will be recruited, regardless of whether they are sexually active or have a partner.

Procedure: Participants will be contacted at six months after injury and asked to complete a telephone assessment. The assessment will include the Derogatis Interview for Sexual Functioning Self-Report, the General Satisfaction Index from the Derogatis Sexual Functioning Inventory, a structured interview on sexuality and questions on comfort in discussing sexuality with medical professionals. In addition, they will complete the BSI-18, FIM and Social Integration Scale from the Community Integration Questionnaire. For participants who have partners, the partner will also be asked to complete the Derogatis questionnaires, the sexual interview and the comfort with discussing sexuality questions. Participants will be re-contacted at one year for a second interview.

Expected Outcomes: The study is expected to result in the following outcomes:

  1. Accumulation of the largest existing prospective database on sexual functioning after TBI
  2. Increased knowledge of sexual changes after TBI for females
  3. Increased knowledge of the impact of TBI on the sexual functioning of partners
  4. Increased knowledge regarding the factors that contribute to sexual functioning after TBI
  5. Increased understanding of changes in sexual functioning over time

A brochure will be created for persons with TBI and their partners, to describe common sexual changes after TBI and how to address them. A brochure for rehabilitation professionals will be created to sensitize them to the importance of sexuality after TBI and to provide them with ways to give appropriate information to persons that they treat.

The Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Model Systems program at TIRR Memorial Hermann, one of the premiere traumatic brain injury facilities in the world, will study patients with traumatic brain injury and traumatic head injury. The program will also study traumatic brain injury rehabilitation, traumatic brain injury rehab and head injury. Other portions of the program will include brain injury, research, communication and brain injury, sexuality and brain injury, and acquired brain injury, as well as focus on outcomes.