Published: Wed, April 11, 2018
Medical | By Marta Holmes

Traumatic Brain Injuries Are Tied to Dementia

Traumatic Brain Injuries Are Tied to Dementia

Sustaining a traumatic brain injury (TBT) in your 20s may increase the risk of developing dementia including Alzheimer's in your 50s by 60 percent, a review of almost three million patients has revealed.

"However, it's important to emphasise that although the relative risk of dementia is increased after traumatic brain injury, the absolute risk increase is low". Today, a study that analyzed data from 2-point-8 million people found that T-B-Is and their severity heighten the risk of developing dementia.

Commenting on the research, University College London neurology professor Jonathan Schott said it provided "perhaps the best evidence yet that traumatic brain injury is a risk factor for dementia".

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"Importantly, a person who has sustained a TBI should do what they can to prevent further TBIs as the risk of dementia increases with the number of TBIs", Fann told AFP.

Researchers have come up with a new test to measure how severe a brain injury is - a step forward in improving patient care. For example, individuals having a TBI in their 20s were 63 per cent more likely to develop dementia about 30 years later compared to those who didn't sustain a TBI in their 20s.

Dementia affects up to 55,000 people in Ireland and Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-70 per cent of all cases.

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Even a relatively minor knock on the head resulting in concussion led to a 17 per cent risk increase, researchers found.

"There are some cognitive rehabilitation strategies that may decrease the cognitive deficits associated with a brain injury", he said. "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.

This study examined the health records of 15,000 patients and found that assessment of pupil reactivity, called GCS-Pupil or GCS-P, would have had a positive effect on doctors' ability to forecast the condition of their patients six months after diagnosing a brain injury.

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Writing in a linked comment, Professor Carol Brayne from the Cambridge Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK says, "Now we need to tease out what is happening in terms of traumatic brain injury, wider spectrum exposures and how these occur across different ages, by gender, and also by community within societies".

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