BACKGROUND: We aimed to study the incidence and outcome of severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) in Switzerland and to test the feasibility of a large cohort study with case identification in the first 24 hours and 6-month follow-up. METHODS: From January to June 2005, we consecutively enrolled and followed up all persons with severe TBI (Abbreviated Injury Score of the head region >3 and Glasgow Coma Scale <9) in the catchment areas of 3 Swiss medical centres with neurosurgical facilities. The primary outcome was the Extended Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOSE) after 6 months. Secondary outcomes included survival, Functional Independence Mea - sure (FIM), and health-related quality of life (SF-12) at defined time-points up to 6 months after injury. RESULTS: We recruited 101 participants from a source population of about 2.47 million (ie, about 33% of Swiss population). The incidence of severe TBI was 8.2 per 100,000 person-years. The overall case fatality was 70%: 41 of 101 persons (41%) died at the scene of the accident. 23 of 60 hospitalised participants (38%) died within 48 hours, and 31 (53%) within 6 months. In all hospitalised patients, the median GOSE was 1 (range 1-8) after 6 months, and was 6 (2-8) in 6-month survivors. The median total FIM score was 125 (range 18-126); median-SF-12 component mea - sures were 44 (25-55) for the physical scale and 52 (32-65) for the mental scale. CONCLUSIONS: Severe TBI was associated with high case fatality and considerable morbidity in survivors. We demonstrated the feasibility of a multicentre cohort study in Switzerland with the aim of identifying modifiable determinants of outcome and improving current trauma care.