Traumatic Brain Injury May Increase Risk of Dementia: Study

According to the findings of a new study, individuals who have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may face an increased risk of developing dementia later in life.  

The findings were published in the medical journal Neurology on June 25, with researchers reviewing data on nearly 200,000 U.S. veterans age 55 or older to examine the link between TBI and dementia.

None of the veterans involved in the study had dementia at the start, and they were followed for a period of nine years to look for incidents of brain injuries and other conditions that could further increase the risk of dementia.

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Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco and the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center indicate that veterans who suffered a TBI were 60% more likely to receive a dementia diagnosis than those who did not have a brain injury on record. The researchers also said there was an additive association between TBI and other conditions that could further increase the risk of dementia.

“Our results suggest that TBI in older veterans may predispose toward development of symptomatic dementia and raise concern about the potential long-term consequences of TBI in younger veterans and civilians,” the researchers concluded.

This is the second major study this group of researchers has conducted in recent years to link TBIs with dementia risk. In 2011, they looked at data on 300,000 veterans and found that 2% had suffered at least one traumatic brain injury, and those who did had a 15% chance of developing dementia, compared to only a 7% chance among those who had not suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Traumatic brain injuries are one of the leading causes of death and permanent disability worldwide, with 1.4 to 1.7 million people suffering a head injury each year. Such brain damage often result in a victim requiring extensive medical treatment and permanent around-the-clock care.

Veterans are not the only ones who may be at risk. A significant amount of media attention has been placed on sports-related concussions and their long-term effects, and some National Football League players are suing the league over the long-term side effects of TBIs.

However, motorcycle and automobile accidents account for about 20% of all traumatic brain injuries. Experts suggested that people who know they have had a traumatic brain injury should make sure they are carefully monitored and screened for signs of dementia as they approach old age.

Another study published in the journal Neurology last year found a link between suffering mild concussions and an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Adults with a history of mild brain injuries had more build up of the Alzheimer’s-associated plaques in the brain.

Other findings indicate that brain damage can be caused after suffering only one episode of mild traumatic injury, or a typical concussion. Another study found a second concussion to the head may increase a person’s risk of death significantly, after already suffering an initial blow to the head which has not healed.


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