Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

40-year study links traumatic brain injury with early death

Harm to the brain may be more deadly than many Pittsburgh residents realize. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates traumatic brain injury is a factor in over 30 percent of all deaths by injury. Each year, about 1.7 million TBIs occur in the U.S., with 75 percent diagnosed as mild or concussive incidents.

Oxford University researchers followed the lives and deaths more than 218,000 Swedish TBI patients over 40 years, starting in 1969. The results were published this month in JAMA Psychiatry.

The patients' ages of death were compared to their siblings and the overall population. TBI patients also were divided into those who were and were not diagnosed with psychiatric conditions, before suffering a traumatic brain injury.

Researchers found patients with TBIs died prematurely - before age 56 - three times more often than people who never had TBI. When a psychiatric disorder was in the patient's history, the difference was even more startling. The premature death rate was 20 times higher for psychiatric TBI patients than patients without brain injury histories.

Among siblings, TBI patients died prematurely 2.6 times more often than their brothers or sisters with no TBIs. Siblings were compared to reduce chances the brain injury patients were predisposed genetically to early deaths.

The study noted TBI sufferers who died before age 56 died more often by violence, including suicide, than the groups to which they were compared. Researchers think the violent deaths indicate brain injuries interfere with TBI patients' mental health.

The new research seems to support other studies that have connected suicides among soldiers with brain injuries suffered in war zone blasts. Mood swings, aggression and depression are also linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disease prevalent among TBI sufferers.

Victims of TBI injuries, professional athletes among them, have taken legal action against employers who've ignored the seriousness of concussions and risked employees' health and safety.

Source: CBS News, "Traumatic brain injury triples risk for early death, study says" Michelle Castillo, Jan. 16, 2014

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