Traumatic Brain Injury ER Visits Increased 30%: Study

The results of a new study suggest emergency room visits involving a traumatic brain injury (TBI) have increased nearly 30% in recent years, which is likely a result of increased focus on the effects of concussions and head injuries. 

In a study published last week by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers reviewed data involving nearly 140 million emergency room visits from hundreds of hospitals, which suggested that visits involving head trauma increased eightfold overall between 2006 and 2010.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine launched the study to evaluate national trends in emergency room visits for brain injuries, reviewing data from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample (NEDS), a national database which compiles ER visits from more than 950 hospitals each year.

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Nearly two percent of the 140 million patients treated for head injuries at emergency rooms received a traumatic brain injury diagnosis.

Dr. Jennifer R. Marin, lead author of the study, and the team of researchers examined data from 2006 to 2010 finding a 30% increase in TBI injuries across that time frame. In comparison, total ER visits increased by about four percent.

Traumatic brain injuries were seen by doctors eight times more than other injuries. The majority of the brain injuries were the result of concussion or other head injuries.

Marin attributes the increase in traumatic brain injuries to increased awareness and diagnoses, especially after increased public education.

Researchers found children under the age of three and adults over 60 had the largest increase in TBI rates.

While these results were surprising, researchers speculate that these age groups may not benefit as much from public health intervention programs, such as concussion and helmet laws or safer sports practices, aimed to make patients more wary of the dangers of head injuries.

Additionally, nearly 40% of all TBI ER patients also were treated for at least one other injury. Injuries included, open wounds of the head, neck and body, sprains and strains, and fractures not related to the face or head.

Researchers said the study was extremely important considering the increase in concussion injuries over the past decade. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes traumatic brain injuries as a serious public health concern.

Increases May Be Product of Brain Injury Awareness

Public awareness of brain injuries has increased over the last decade after issues have come to the forefront of media attention involving professional and students athletes.

In 2011, a study found TBIs in young athletes increased more than 60% over the last decade, an alarming rate that has the public concerned of the lasting effects head injuries may pose.

Another study published in the medical journal Brain revealed a link between long term brain damage and repetitive head injuries from contact sports, such as football, hockey and boxing.

While the long-lasting effects of brain injuries were not well understood in the past, a study published earlier this year revealed survivors of TBI may be three times more likely to face a premature death after facing long-term effects of head trauma.

Even more recently, researchers found men may take longer to recover from traumatic brain injuries than women. The study found on average men take more than one month longer to recover from TBI than women. Another concern prompting people to be wary of head injury.

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