Head Injuries Triple Risk of Premature Death

Researchers from Oxford University and the Karolinska Institute published last month in JAMA Psychiatry their comprehensive study, which found that survivors of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are three times more likely to die prematurely.

The study encompassed 41 years of Swedish population history. The team led by Dr. Seena Fazel sought to determine the relationship between TBIs and long-term mortality. In particular, the researchers wanted to observe the effects that TBIs had on external causes of death, such as suicide, injuries, and assaults.


Studies of the population revealed that individuals who had been diagnosed with a TBI and survived at least six months tripled their risk of a premature death. Similar trends were found in individuals who committed suicide or assault, as well as suffering from injury. In addition, the risk was increased even more if the individual had any psychiatric or substance abuse comorbidity.

The researchers compared the data to the general population as well as unaffected siblings in order to account for any genetic trends. Individuals who suffered TBIs were more than twice as likely to commit suicide as one of their siblings who did not suffer a TBI.

The exact reason for the increased risk of premature death is unknown, but the researchers suggest that it may have to do with damage to the area of the brain responsible for decision-making.

The scientists stress the importance of sharing this data. Currently, TBIs are monitored as an acute injury; however, this study suggests that more attention should be paid to the long-term effects of sustaining a TBI. Hopefully, future research will highlight the causes of these effects and will aid in treatment of individuals who suffer this type of injury.


Source: Seena Fazel, Achim Wolf, Demetris Pillas, Paul Lichtenstein, Niklas Långström.Suicide, Fatal Injuries, and Other Causes of Premature Mortality in Patients With Traumatic Brain InjuryJAMA Psychiatry, 2014


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