TBI Decreases From Less Auto Accidents Offset By Elderly Fall Head Injuries: CDC

Although the number of people who died from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) following an auto accident decreased from 2007 to 2013, more elderly individuals suffered injuries from head traumas during that same time, according to new data from government health officials. 

In the latest edition of U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), researchers indicate that overall traumatic brain injury (TBI) deaths decreased from the 2007 reporting period to 2013. That drop is primarily driven by a decrease in the number of people who died after experiencing a head injury during car crashes.

However, rates of head injuries increased among the elderly, CDC researchers found.

The data was compiled using state-based administrative health care information from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project’s National Emergency Department Sample and National Sample. It was used to estimate TBI-related ER visits and hospitalizations.

The most common cause of head injury was from a fall, about 47% of the time, followed by being struck by an object and then car crashes.

Overall, the highest rates of head injuries, hospitalizations or deaths occurred among people over 75. The next group that was most at risk were children infants to 4 years old, then young adults 15 to 24.

More than 2.8 million head injury-related emergency room (ER) visits, hospitalizations and deaths occurred in the U.S. in 2013.

The number of ER visits alone increased to 2.5 million, up from 1.6 million in 2007. The report indicated much of the increase was due to people being struck by objects, nearly 20%, and about seven percent was from head injuries during car accidents. Fall-related TBIs among persons over 75 accounted for 18% of the increase.

About 300,000 TBI-related hospitalizations occurred during 2013. More than 75% of hospitalizations were attributable to falls and car crashes, about 50% were from falls, and  21% from car crashes. The rate from 2007 to 2013 remained about the same.

Concussion-related hospitalizations increased among people over 75 from 2007 to 2013, again primarily because of falls.

However, older people are experiencing head injuries at a much greater rate, which often causes hospitalizations and deaths in that age group. A CDC study from 2015 indicated deaths from falls among the elderly nearly doubled since 2000.

Researchers said focus should be placed on effective interventions for this population. That may include identifying risks and implementing interventions, like exercise and medication management, which can be particularly useful in preventing nursing home falls. In some cases, the elderly are overprescribed powerful sedatives, contributing to impaired mental faculties and increased risk of falls. 

Males had higher rates of brain injury related ER visits, hospitalizations, and deaths compared to females.

Head Injuries Deaths Decreased

While TBI-related ER visits from car crashes increased from 2007 to 2013, TBI-related hospitalizations and deaths from motor vehicle crashes decreased during that time.

Overall, head injury death rates decreased from 2007 to 2013.

One change seen between the two reporting periods was the cause of head injury deaths. In 2007, car crashes were the leading cause of TBI-related deaths. In 2013, intentional self-harm was the leading cause of death in number and rate, primarily from firearm-related injuries, about 96 percent of the time.

Researchers say sports-related TBI rates have increased dramatically since 1990. Some estimates indicate nearly 2 million U.S. children suffer a head injury and don’t receive medical care.

Traumatic brain injury is a major cause of mortality in the United States, resulting in 30 percent of all injury-related deaths. Nearly 1 in 50 ER visits are for TBI related injuries.

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