Traumatic brain injury (TBI) leads to long-lasting effects that triple survivors’ risk of premature death, according to a study led by Oxford University. Those deaths often happen from suicide or fatal injury, researchers found.
Researchers hypothesized that the increased risk of death is linked to brain damage in areas responsible for making decisions and taking risks.
The English researchers partnered with scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, poring through 41 years’ worth of Swedish medical records. Scientists looked to see what happened to more than 218,000 traumatic brain injury survivors and their 150,513 siblings. Siblings were important to the research because they helped scientists control for genetic factors and other familial conditions that can impact health.
To compare the health impacts of traumatic brain injury against the general population, the study used a control group of 2 million people who matched the test group in age and gender. In their evaluations, researchers uncovered traumatic brain injury survivors’ significant risk for early death, particularly suicide.
Traumatic brain injury survivors kill themselves at twice the rate as their healthy siblings.
Concussions, a mild TBI, were evaluated separately from more serious cases. Concussion survivors experienced double the risk of premature death when compared to the general population, researchers found.
Traumatic brain injuries result from a sudden, violent impact to the head. Sometimes an object punctures the skull and invades the brain tissue. The skull sustains an injury, which leads to internal bleeding and loss of consciousness for seconds, minutes, or hours.
These injuries commonly happen in sports, such as skiing or football, but could also happen during a car accident or nasty fall.
Immediate traumatic brain injury symptoms include headache, dizziness, blurred vision, and confusion. Some people also experience ringing in the ears and difficultly concentrating. Vomiting, slurred speech, and weakness or numbness in the arms or legs may occur in more severe cases.
Severe traumatic brain injuries can cause lasting damage. About half of the cases require surgery to fix damaged blood vessels or contusions, which are bruises in the brain tissue, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
These injuries are common, with 2.5 million people reporting the condition in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC considers traumatic brain injury a serious threat to public health and much research focuses on how to identify, prevent, and treat the injuries.
Have you or anyone you know ever experienced a traumatic brain injury?
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