For adults over the age of 55, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may be linked to an increased risk of dementia, a new study suggests. This is not the first study to link TBI and dementia, but researchers say that previous studies have not found the direct link and were subject to limitations. The CDC reports that 60 percent of hospitalizations for TBI are in adults 55 years and older and the highest number of emergency department visits and deaths from TBI occur in adults 75 and older.
The researchers identified 164,661 patients aged 55 years and older who were recently diagnosed with TBI or non-TBI body trauma (NTT) fractures for the study. The team followed these adults for 5.7 years and none of the patients showed signs of dementia at baseline. After follow-up, the researchers found of the 51,799 patients diagnosed with TBI, 8.4% developed dementia, compared with 5.9% of patients diagnosed with NTT. Upon further analysis, it was found that moderate to severe TBI led to an increased risk of dementia, compared to mild TBI.
“Given the high rates of TBI in the population, primary prevention of TBI, which in this study was overwhelmingly (66.4%) due to falls, is critical,” said the researchers. “The effect of mild TBI sustained in middle age or earlier deserves further study during a longer period of follow-up. In addition, further research is needed to understand the mechanisms of post-TBI dementia to inform secondary preventive strategies.” However, the researchers do note there were limitations to the study.