Published: Wed, April 11, 2018
Medical | By Mark Scott

Brain Injuries Linked With Dementia Risk

Brain Injuries Linked With Dementia Risk

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.

Previous research on links between brain injury and dementia has produced conflicting results, said the study authors writing in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry.

This included "less severe" injuries such as concussion.

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".

Using the health records of 15,000 patients, the study found assessment of pupil reactivity - named GCS-Pupil or GCS-P - would have improved doctors' ability to predict patients' conditions six months after a brain injury.

The study found that the risk of dementia increased 33 percent higher for two or three TBIs, 61 percent higher for four TBIs, and 183 percent higher for five or more TBIs.

But a single severe brain injury increased the risk of later dementia by 35 percent compared with a person who never had brain trauma. In the study group, 5.3 per cent of dementia sufferers had experienced a brain injury when younger, compared to 4.7 per cent of people without dementia.

Dementia affects 47 million people worldwide, and that number is expected to double in the next 20 years, the researchers said.

Each year, more than 50 million people worldwide suffer a traumatic brain injury, which occurs when a bump or blow to the head disrupts normal brain function. And he clarified that the findings do not suggest that every person who sustains a severe TBI will develop dementia later in life.

Prior studies of traumatic brain injury and dementia have struggled to establish a link because of low sample sizes or study intervals that were too short to observe dementia development.

He also suggested people who suffer a TBI get an evaluation and seek treatment for persisting problems.

Despite the size of the studies, they won't settle scientific questions - or social debate - about brain injuries from sports, war, vehicle crashes or domestic violence. For their first T.B.I. diagnosis, 85 percent were this mild type.

Between 1999 and 2013, 4.5 per cent of the study population aged 50 and older were diagnosed with dementia.

Over 36 years, 132,093 individuals had at least one TBI, and most cases were categorised as mild.

Among men and women with TBI histories, men had slightly higher rate of developing dementia (30 percent vs. 19 percent).

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