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A new study reportedly found that even mild cases of traumatic brain injury, commonly known as concussions, can lead to a higher risk for a stroke in the four months after their injuries. Said risk remains higher than the general population for up to five years.
Traumatic brain injuries occur for many reasons, some of the most common include falls, car crashes, and sports collisions. This type of injury is characterized for being a bump or jolt to the head that disrupts normal brain function. In the U.S., more than 23 million adults age 40 or older have a history of head injuries in which they lost consciousness.
Brain injuries are extremely serious and will always require immediate medical attention. Even a minor concussion can lead to permanent cognitive and behavioral issues. The most serious brain injuries can result in permanent physical disability, paralysis, and even death. Unlike most body organs, the brain cannot heal itself by regenerating new cells. TBI has become a recent health crisis, and there are new federal and California laws in place to prevent such injuries. According to data quoted by Statista, there were 61,131 cases of traumatic brain injury-related deaths in the US in 2017.
The long-term effects of traumatic brain injury are well documented, and can include an increased risk for neurological diseases like dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy. Moreover, a recent Penn Medicine study found a single head injury can increase the risk of developing dementia as much as 25 years later.
Other studies have also shown that a traumatic brain injury is an independent risk factor for stroke. The research done by the University of Birmingham is the first large review on post-injury stroke risk. In the analysis, 18 studies from four countries were included. The researchers found that traumatic brain injury patients have an 86% increased risk of stroke compared to patients who have not experienced such an injury. Moreover, the stroke risk was elevated regardless of the severity or subtype of the injury.
The researchers said that the use of anticoagulants such as vitamin K antagonists, known as VKAs, and statins can help reduce the stroke risk after a brain injury. Lead author Grace Turner, of the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Applied Health Research reportedly said: “Our review found some evidence to suggest an association between reduced stroke risk post-TBI and the stroke prevention drugs VKAs and statins but, as previous studies have found, stroke prevention drugs are often stopped when an individual experiences a TBI.” However, more research is needed on the effectiveness of stroke prevention drugs after a traumatic brain injury to help guide clinicians’ treatment decisions.
Moreover, the researchers also noted that both patients and healthcare providers should also be aware that some classes of antidepressants are associated with increased stroke risk after a traumatic brain injury. “TBI patients should be informed of the potential for increased stroke risk and with the risk of stroke at its highest in the first four months post-injury, this is a critical time period to educate patients and their caregivers on stroke risk and symptoms,” Turner added.
“This initial four-month period should also be used by clinicians to administer stroke prevention medication and lifestyle advice to mitigate the excess risk of stroke associated with TBI.”