July 1, 2011

According to the Brain Injury Association of Oregon, about 20,000 state residents suffer a brain injury every year. The national number is about 1.7 million. In the active military, more than 9,800 traumatic brain injuries were reported in the first quarter of 2011, more than 31,000 during 2010.

A new study says these TBI victims are twice as likely to develop dementia as people without TBI.

The researchers looked at medical records of about 300,000 war veterans age 55 or older who did not have dementia at the beginning of the study period. From those records, they identified about 6,000 — 2 percent — who had suffered a TBI. The records included initial inpatient or outpatient visits and follow-up visits, allowing the researchers to track the progress of the veterans.

TBI patients showed a 15 percent risk of developing dementia later in life. Non-TBI patients had just a 7 percent risk.

The link between dementia and TBI has been suspected for some time. By quantifying the risk in this study, researchers hope to encourage additional study of early interventions on the long-term cognitive health of patients.

One reason TBI is so often in the news — and research is so often funded — is the number of military personnel who have suffered head injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan. Almost a quarter of all injuries in those theaters are TBIs; almost 60 percent of blast-related injuries (including IEDs) are TBIs.

In 2010, about 80 percent of the TBIs were classified as “mild.” It was unclear from reports if the study examined the risk of dementia in patients with different levels of TBI.

Source:, “Traumatic brain injury doubles risk of later dementia,” Mary Brophy Marcus, 07/18/2011



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