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,”