Watch Your Head: Stroke After Brain Injury

Stroke risk rises in patients with traumatic brain injury

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) About one in 53 Americans suffers a traumatic brain injury each year. This damage in the head may trigger an additional health problem: an increased likelihood of having a stroke.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a serious public health problem in the United States. Each year, these injuries play a role in a substantial number of deaths and cases of permanent disability.

A new investigation supports previous research finding that TBI also increases the risk of having a stroke.

"Wear a safety belt to reduce risk of brain injury."

James Burke, MD, of the University of Michigan and the Ann Arbor VA Healthcare System and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, collaborated on an extensive study of over one million patients.

Scientists analyzed data on 435,630 people with traumatic brain injury and 736,723 people with trauma but no brain injury.

The researchers found that patients with traumatic brain injury were 30 percent more likely to have a stroke than those with trauma but with no brain injury. This difference was calculated after taking into account factors that can affect stroke risk, such as age, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

"Both stroke and traumatic brain injury are common, costly and leading causes of severe disability in adults, and approximately 20 percent of strokes occur in adults under age 65," said Dr. Burke in a statement.

"A large proportion of stroke risk is unexplained, especially in the young, so if we can identify new risk factors, we have the potential to prevent more strokes and improve outcomes," he said.

The CDC suggest taking these actions to reduce the risk of TBI:

  • Wear a seat belt every time you drive or ride in a motor vehicle.
  • Never drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Wear a helmet (and make sure your children wear helmets) when riding a bike, motorcycle, snowmobile, scooter or all-terrain vehicle; playing a contact sport such as hockey, football or boxing; using inline skates or riding a skateboard; riding a horse; skiing or snowboarding.
  • Make living areas safe for seniors and children.

Research published in 2011 in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association reported that an individual suffering from a traumatic brain injury has a 10-fold increased risk of having a stroke within the first three months of injury.

Dr. Burke added, "If further research establishes TBI as a new risk factor for stroke, that would stimulate research to help us understand what causes stroke after TBI and help us learn how to prevent these strokes."

This study was published on June 26 in the online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The research was supported by an advanced fellowship through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Review Date: 
June 26, 2013
Last Updated:
September 6, 2013