Study: TBI in older adults linked with higher risk of dementia

A new study indicates people older than 55 may be at risk for developing dementia after suffering from moderate or even mild traumatic brain injuries.

As some people in Enola have learned through the experiences of loved ones, traumatic brain injuries can be incredibly complex injuries. The full effects of a brain injury may not become apparent for months or even years. Besides causing physical, emotional and cognitive changes, a TBI can also raise the risk of various health conditions and complications. Sadly, recent research suggests that older adults who sustain TBIs may have a higher risk of developing dementia.

Early study findings

The new study, which was published in October in the online edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, surveyed almost 52,000 cases, according to Health Day. Each case involved a person older than 55 who suffered a traumatic injury and sought treatment in California in 2005 or 2006. Researchers tracked all of these patients until 2011 and found the following troubling connections:

  • The rate of dementia was higher among TBI patients than other traumatic injury patients, with respective rates of 8 percent and 6 percent.
  • A moderate brain injury raised the likelihood that a person older than 55 would develop dementia.
  • People over 65 appeared more susceptible to the effects of TBI, with even a mild injury raising the risk of dementia.
  • People who suffered two traumatic brain injuries were twice as likely to develop dementia as other patients.

The research does not reveal the nature of the relationship between TBI and dementia, nor does it suggest how TBI could cause dementia. The study also did not control for factors such as prior head injuries or distinguish between different types of dementia, which could affect the accuracy of the findings. However, the researchers intend to conduct further studies to explore the connection between TBI and risk of developing dementia.

TBI and older adults

Unfortunately, the adults who are most vulnerable to the effects of TBIs may also be at a greater risk for suffering them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that falling is the most common cause of TBI; between 2006 and 2010, falls caused 40 percent of reported TBIs. Data from the same period suggests that falls contribute disproportionately to TBIs in older adults; during that time, 81 percent of TBIs reported in adults over 65 were due to falls.

The CDC also reports that car accidents are the third most common cause of TBI. The CDC does not report statistics on the prevalence of TBIs due to car accidents among older adults, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states that older drivers are more prone to crash-related injuries and related complications because of their frail bodies and health.

TBIs due to negligence

Sadly, falls, car accidents and other common causes of TBI often occur in preventable accidents. When a person is injured due to another person's negligence, the person may be able to seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit for medical expenses, lost wages, disablement and more.

It's essential that people who have suffered a complicated injury, such as a TBI, understand the full long-term consequences of the injury and seek compensation accordingly. Meeting with an attorney can help victims understand their rights and evaluate the true long-term costs of the injury.

Keywords: TBI, brain, injury, accident