Head and Neck Trauma Injuries Could Lead To Stroke

Stroke risk significantly increased for head and neck trauma patients

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

(RxWiki News) About 2 million people are admitted to the hospital for trauma injuries each month. Trauma to certain places of the body could lead to even more serious health problems, including stroke.

A recent study found that trauma patients with head or neck injuries were at elevated risk for stroke.

The researchers suggested that more research is needed to develop stroke prevention strategies.

"Tell your doctor if you've had recent trauma."

The lead author of this study was Christine K. Fox, MD, from the Department of Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco.

The study included 1,509,820 patients who were admitted to the emergency room or inpatient care for a non-fatal traumatic injury between 1997 and 2011.

All participants were in the Northern California health system and between the ages of 20 and 50 years old.

The researchers looked through medical records to identify patients who had an ischemic stroke within four weeks of injury.

An ischemic stroke happens when the blood vessels supplying the brain get blocked and the brain cannot receive oxygen.

The findings showed that there were a total of 197 ischemic strokes during the study period.

The rate of stroke four weeks after injury was 13 cases per 100,000 people.

The researchers estimated that approximately 260 adults between the ages of 20 and 50 years old have an ischemic stroke after a traumatic injury per month.

The average age of the stroke patients was 38 years old, compared with 24 years old for the patients who did not have a stroke.

A total of 38 of the 197 stroke patients were admitted for a head or neck injury.

Dr. Fox and team determined that trauma patients with a head or neck injury were 2.8 times more likely to have an ischemic stroke compared to trauma patients who did not have a head or neck injury.

"Most people commonly think that strokes only happen when you are old and they happen suddenly.  Stroke after a traumatic accident is well known to physicians and can be devastating, well beyond the original trauma, and often can be difficult to diagnose, so identifying risk factors is paramount to prevention," said dailyRx Contributing Expert Chris Galloway, MD.

"Anatomic injury to blood vessels from the trauma can lead to impaired blood flow to the brain, leading to ischemic stroke, or a clot can form at an injured vessel that then gets dislodged, traveling to the brain circulation causing an embolic stroke," Dr. Galloway said.

"Although the percent of patients having stroke after trauma is low, early diagnosis and correction of the vascular problem is key to preventing potentially permanent neurologic impairment," he said.

The researchers suggested that more research needs to be done on the groups that are at highest risk for ischemic stroke in order to develop strategies for stroke prevention.

This study was presented on February 13 at the International Stroke Conference 2014.

The National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association provided funding.

Review Date: 
February 11, 2014
Last Updated:
February 14, 2014