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Traumatic Brain Injuries Increase Risk of Strokes, Study Finds

Suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may increase an individual’s risk of also suffering a stroke, according to the findings of a new study.

Stroke risk is the highest during the first four months after a head injury, but remains elevated for up to five years, according to findings published this month in the International Journal of Stroke.

Researchers from the University of Birmingham conducted a review of 18 studies from four countries on traumatic brain injury, which can range from a common concussion to more serious and life-threatening head trauma. Side effects can include headaches, nausea, sensitivity to light, emotional changes, increased irritability and anger and other effects which can persist for months to years.

According to data outlined in this new study, suffering a brain injury increases the risk of stroke by 86% compared to patients who did not suffer a head injury. The risk of stroke was highest four months following the injury, but the risk remains elevated for five years

Researchers found head injuries are a risk factor for stroke regardless of the severity of the head injury or subtype of the injury. Roughly 70% to 90% of TBIs are mild, yet even mild TBIs elevate the risk of stroke.

Using anticoagulants such as vitamin K antagonists (VKAs) and statins may help to reduce the risk of stroke after experiencing TBI, according to the researchers. However, VKA’s and statins are often stopped when someone suffers a head injury.

Additionally, taking some anti-depressants after suffering a concussion or more serious head trauma also increased the risk of stroke. Many patients who suffer TBIs may be prescribed antidepressants because of the emotional side effects they experience from the injury.

Prior studies have linked suffering head trauma with increased risk of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, increased risk of attempting suicide, and increased incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Researchers suggest a brain injury should be considered a chronic condition even if it is mild and patients recover well. Furthermore, patients should be educated on how to recognize the signs of TBI and understand the stroke risk after suffering a head injury, researchers warned. They should also be educated on how to recognize risks and symptoms of stroke.

“Stroke is the second leading cause of death and third leading cause of disability worldwide, however, urgent treatment can prevent stroke related death and long-term disability,” lead author Dr. Grace Turner said in a University of Birmingham press release.

TBI affects more than 60 million people every year around the world. The number of TBIs continue to rise due to a range of factors including sports injuries, increased risk of falls among the elderly, military conflict, and traffic accidents.

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