Traumatic brain injury increases the risk of stroke

22 April 2021

Over recent years, traumatic brain injuries have increased due to sports injuries, road traffic accidents, falls in the elderly and more. Traumatic brain injuries are now affecting over 6 million people a year worldwide. Despite the rise - and cause of TBI - advances in critical care have a significant impact on reducing TBI-related death.

While previous studies have associated the risk of neurological diseases - from dementia to epilepsy - with TBI, the latest review brings together 18 studies from four countries. It is, in fact, the first of its kind to investigate post-injury stroke.

University Hospitals Birmingham has conducted research - funded by the National Institute for Health Research’s Surgical Reconstruction and Microbiology - which shows brain-injured patients have an increased risk of stroke by 86% over those who haven’t experienced TBI.

Although the risk of stroke is at its highest in the first 4-months post-traumatic brain injury, it remains significant for up to 5-years.

Between 70 and 90% of traumatic brain injuries are mild. However, the new research suggests that regardless the severity or subtype of the injury, stroke is a high risk factor. Traumatic brain injuries should be considered a chronic condition, even if patients recover well.

Although some medication administered following a brain injury could help to reduce the risk of stroke, the use of some anti-depressants - often taken following the injury - can increase the risk. Dr Grace Turner, the lead author of the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Applied Health Research, said:

“Stroke is the second leading cause of death. Our review found some evidence suggesting stroke prevention drugs are often stopped when an individual experiences a traumatic brain injury.“More research is required to investigate the effectiveness of stroke prevention drugs post-TBI.”

Patients living with a traumatic brain injury should be informed of the potential increased stroke risk straight away. The critical time period to educate patients - and those providing additional care and support - on stroke risk and symptoms is within the first couple of months post-diagnosis.

The more education provided to individuals living with brain injury, the higher chance to protect them from the risk of stroke. Urgent treatment can prevent stroke-related death and long-term disability. Dr Turner concluded:

“The initial four-month period should be used by clinicians to administer stroke prevention medication and lifestyle advice, to mitigate the excess risk of stroke associated with TBI,”

Find out how NRC Medical Experts support people following a serious injury. Explore our specialisms, meet our experts and request a free pre-instruction conversation.



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