Study highlights link between head injury and dementia
Study highlights link between head injury and dementia
New research finds link between concussion and dementia
12 April, 2018, 00:40
"People who have suffered traumatic brain injury (...) are at an increased risk of developing dementia, even decades after the injury", explains study leader Jesse Fann of the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.
Even when controlling for other medical and psychiatric conditions associated with dementia, such as depression and hypertension, people with TBI were 1.24 times more likely to develop dementia than people without a brain injury.
Among the almost 2.8 million people observed in the study, 4.7 percent had at least one TBI diagnosis. The researchers found that the risk of dementia increased by 33 percent for two or three TBIs, 61 percent for four injuries and 183 percent for five or more injuries.
Measuring pupil reactivity to light could assist with treatment decisions for brain injuries, they say. According to the study authors, more than 50 million people every year experience a traumatic brain injury. The researchers found that 4.3 percent of participants with dementia had at least one mild TBI, compared with 4 percent of those without dementia. But it would be advisable for people who had suffered a severe knock to the head - whether in a fall, vehicle accident, through contact sport, or an assault - to take extra precautions.
They found 132,093 people had a TBI at some point between 1977-2013, and 126,734 were diagnosed with a form of dementia between 1999 and 2013.
The researchers noted that while previous research has suggested a link between TBI, including concussion, and subsequent dementia, earlier studies have been limited in size and details, and have had short follow-up periods.
Men with TBI histories developed dementia at a 30 percent rate, while women had just a 19 percent rate. TBI correlated with elevated dementia risk compared to individuals with a non-TBI fracture not involving the skull or spine (hazard ratio, 1.29).
"Severe TBI is particularly frequent in young people, and it is concerning that the risk of dementia is particular high in relatively young persons who suffer TBI", said co-author Jakob Christensen, associate professor of neurology at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark. "Our findings suggest that improved traumatic brain injury prevention programmes may have an opportunity to reduce the burden of dementia worldwide". One possible weakness of the study was that it looked at people from a single country with a "fairly similar ethnic population", said the authors - meaning its findings may not apply to people of other ethnic groups in other countries. They also note that they did not include TBIs treated by general practitioners, so the data might not have captured some less severe TBIs.
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