Traumatic Brain Injuries — HEALTH REPORT

12 April, 2018, 00:40 | Author: Lynne Higgins
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Sustaining a traumatic brain injury (TBT) in your 20s may increase the risk of developing dementia including Alzheimer's in your 50s by 60 per cent, a review of almost three million patients has revealed.

The risk of dementia increased with the number of TBIs and the severity of injury.

The study found that 5.3 percent of people with dementia had suffered at least one TBI.

Scientists know that a blow to the head can damage brain cells, but they don't know exactly how that might lead to later cognitive problems, said lead researcher Dr. Jesse Fann of University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.

They looked at the health records of 2.8 million people over 36 years and found that individuals who sustained a TBI in their 20s were 63 per cent more likely to develop dementia in the next three decades than someone who did not sustain one.

But a single severe brain injury increased the risk of later dementia by 35 percent compared with a person who never had brain trauma.

However, even a mild TBI (concussion) increased the risk by 17%.

Measuring pupil reactivity to light could assist with treatment decisions for brain injuries, they say.

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An estimated 9,000-11,000 people suffer a TBI in Ireland every year.

Dementia remained relatively rare: only 4.7 percent of study participants developed dementia at all, a total of 126,734 people. But it would be advisable for people who had suffered a severe knock to the head - whether in a fall, auto accident, through contact sport, or an assault - to take extra precautions.

Fann said it's important to recognize that most people who sustain a single concussion do not develop dementia. The study also examined the impact of sustaining multiple separate brain injuries and the likelihood of subsequently developing dementia.

Between 1999 and 2013, 4.5 per cent of the study population aged 50 and older were diagnosed with dementia.

The overall risk of dementia in individuals with a history of TBI was 24 per cent higher than those without a history of TBI, after accounting for other risk factors for the disease.

The association between TBI and dementia held true even when comparing people with a history of TBI to those with non-TBI fractures not involving the skull or spine.

"However, it's important to emphasize that although the relative risk of dementia is increased after traumatic brain injury, the absolute risk increase is low", Fann noted in a journal news release.

Fann said more research is needed to understand who is at greatest risk of dementia and what other factors contribute to that risk. "The attributable risk of traumatic brain injury to different exposures and how these change across time needs policy attention, given it is likely that prevention of these need be considered at societal, community, and local levels".

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