Brain Trauma May Raise Dementia Risk

Traumatic brain injury patients were more likely to develop dementia than patients with other injuries

(RxWiki News) Researchers have long debated whether a single brain injury can raise a patient's risk for dementia. And new research suggests that it might.

The authors of this recent study found that patients who had a traumatic brain injury (TBI) were more likely to develop dementia than those who had other types of injuries.

Because most of the TBIs were due to falls, the authors called for measures to prevent falls in older patients to reduce their risk for dementia.

"We found that mild TBI sustained at 65 years or older or moderate to severe TBI sustained at 55 years or older may significantly increase the risk of developing dementia," the authors, led by Raquel C. Gardner, MD, of the University of California in San Francisco, wrote. "Given the high rates of TBI in the population, primary prevention of TBI, which in this study was overwhelmingly (66.4 percent) due to falls, is critical."

The study authors set out to assess the risk of dementia in older patients who had sustained TBIs. To do so, they identified 164,661 California trauma patients 55 years old and older. Of those, 51,799 had TBIs.

Trauma refers to a serious injury to the body. TBI refers to serious injuries to the head and neck. Dementia is a brain disorder often associated with aging. It is marked by impaired thinking, poor memory and personality changes.

During a follow-up period of between five and seven years, 8.4 percent of the TBI patients developed dementia, compared to just 5.9 percent of patients with other types of trauma. The average time between being injured and developing dementia was 3.2 years, the authors found.

In younger TBI patients, more severe TBIs were tied to developing dementia, the authors noted. In older patients, even a mild brain injury appeared to raise dementia risk.

The authors noted the need for further research on the relationship between TBI and dementia.

This study was published Oct. 27 in JAMA Neurology.

The authors disclosed no funding sources. Some of the study authors received funding from the National Insitutes of Health, the Department of Defense and and the Department of Veterans Affairs, among others.

Review Date: 
October 27, 2014