Large study says brain injury more than doubles risk of dementia

Posted on behalf of The Bell Law Firm, PLLC on Jul 19, 2011 in Car Accidents

Researchers announced findings regarding traumatic brain injuries this week that may offer hope down the road for many West Virginians. The state's military personnel and their families as well as victims of car accident s or sports injuries may already be aware of the link between TBI and dementia. The study showed that people who suffer a TBI are twice as likely to develop dementia in later life as people with no such injury.

The research team reviewed the medical records of an estimated 300,000 war veterans, age 55 and older, about 6,000 (2 percent) of whom had sustained a TBI at some point during their lives. A TBI was defined as a diagnosis of concussion, post-concussion syndrome, a skull fracture or one of a number of non-specific head injuries.

None of the subjects had dementia at the beginning of the study.

The patients who suffered a traumatic brain injury had a 15 percent risk of developing dementia later in life. Those who did not have a TBI had only about a 7 percent risk.

The implications for men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are fairly grim. TBI is the "signature wound" of those conflicts, accounting for 22 percent of all casualties and 59 percent of blast-related injuries. The lead researcher believes the dementia study should serve as a springboard for research into treatment options. He suggests they continue to look, for example, at early rehabilitation to determine its effectiveness in reducing the risk of dementia.

There is a down side to continuing to find links between TBI and dementia. Even for soldiers who only suspect they've suffered a brain injury, the psychological pressure is mounting -- they are increasingly concerned that, as they age, they will develop dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

Medical personnel encourage anyone who had had a TBI to work with their doctors as they age, to ensure that they are carefully monitored for signs of dementia.

Source: USAToday.com, "Traumatic brain injury doubles risk of later dementia," Mary Brophy Marcus, 07/18/2011

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