Traumatic Brain Injury Patients May Be Twice as Likely to Die from Unintentional Injury: Study

New research suggests that individuals who suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may be twice as likely to die from an unintentional injury, raising further concerns about the long-term impacts following a head trauma. 

In a study published in the medical journal NeuroRehabilitation, researchers with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that suffering a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) may result in cognitive and balance changes, which place individuals at greater risk of suffering an injury from a fall, poisoning or

Researchers looked at data collected by several teams involing patients who underwent rehabilitation after a brain injury, and the findings add to an already long list of side effects traumatic brain injury patients may face long after the trauma.

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The findings echo results of another study published in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry, which concluded that survivors of traumatic brain injuries faced a three-fold risk of premature death.

Motor vehicle crashes were the main cause of head injury-related death among youth and young adults, the study found. Car crashes accounted for 55% of brain injury related deaths in people aged 5 to 14, and 47% of deaths for people ages 15 to 24.

More than 80% of brain injuries among adults over 65 are caused by falls. In 2014, more than 27,000 adults over 65 died from falls, half of those deaths were from brain injuries. A 2013 study indicated one-third of nursing home falls result in a head impact often causing life-threatening head trauma.

A traumatic brain injury is sustained from a mild or severe blow to the head that results in head trauma, often but not always rendering the person unconscious. Symptoms of head injury include, disorientation, confusion, dizziness, blurred vision, vomiting, head aches, and inability to concentrate.

The CDC warns traumatic brain injuries pose a serious public health burden, and efforts to reduce unintentional injuries should be taken, including efforts to reduce injuries from sports, car crashes, or falls.

Brain Injury Long-Term Impacts

Many patients face barriers to returning to work after a brain injury, the study found. In a group of 50 patients, only half were able to return to work. The most common barriers that kept patients from returning to work included difficulty thinking, concentrating and fatigue.

According to another study published in 2013, many patients who suffer head trauma experience cognitive impairment and face a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Another study published in the journal Neurology found that patients who suffered a brain injury also faced an increased risk of developing dementia later in life.

A total of 92% of patients said support of family and friends helped them to return to work, 80% said the support of doctors was a factor, and 76% said employer provided accommodations helped them return to work after suffering a brain injury.

Researchers say changes in cognitive and health functioning can increase a person’s risk of injury. Recognizing potential triggers, such as alcohol and drug abuse, fatigue, lack of balance, and seizures, can help prevent additional injuries.

Doctors also recommend using the Safety Assessment Measure tool which assesses the risk of reduced cognitive function, motor capacity, compliance with safety recommendations, and self regulation.


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