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Study Highlights Factors Leading To Death After Severe Head Trauma

Following a traumatic brain injury (TBI), new research highlights the increased risk of death that may result from losses in mobility and the ability to function overall.  

In a study published in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, researchers from the Kessler Foundation report that patients who performed poorly on physical measures, indicating a loss of functioning ability, also performed more poorly on all other measures. As a result, these individuals were more likely to die within one year following a severe head trauma.

Researchers compared patients who suffered a traumatic brain injury to controls who had not. The study included investigators from five regional TBI Model Systems, which is a collaborative effort to study and analyzed brain injuries, risk factors and potential treatments. They analyzed data from the database of the TBI Model System National Data and Statistical Center.

Nearly 11,000 people were used as controls, and compared to more than 1,100 people who suffered a brain injury and died more than one year after suffering the injury. They compared physical, cognitive, and psychosocial function scores among the subjects.

The largest difference between those who survived a head injury and survived, and those who died, was that those who died had reduced physical functioning, according to the findings. Those who were more mobile and had greater physical functioning had a higher likelihood of longer-term survival. Those who were less mobile had an increased likelihood of dying early.

Another area researchers noted was important was community participation. Patients who actively participated in community activity and functioning had a lower risk of early death from head trauma.

Prior research has linked head traumas to an increased risk of death. One study also linked traumatic brain injury to increased suicide risk and suicidal behavior.

The research focusing on head trauma patients has shown those who suffer a brain injury also have an increased risk of developing dementia later in life. In fact, one single blow to the head, or an average concussion, can increase a person’s risk of suffering Alzheimer’s later.

Researchers said strategies for prevention and intervention of brain injuries should be studied further to help improve longevity and quality of life after such injuries occur.

By identifying modifiable risk factors researchers can also help reduce the risk of long term side effects and death to those who suffer brain injuries.

However, researchers emphasize the findings of this study indicate there is a need for longer and more detailed studies focusing on the TBI population health and lifestyle factors.

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