Long-Term Impact of Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury increased risk of dementia in veterans

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

(RxWiki News) One of the most common injuries from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars has been traumatic brain injury. Researchers are still learning the long-term implications of this injury.

A recent study found that one potential long-term concern related to this injury is the risk of dementia.

The results showed a 60 percent increased risk of dementia among veterans who sustained a traumatic brain injury.

Traumatic brain injuries could have resulted from blasts, shrapnel or other direct hits to the head.

"Seek the care of a neurologist if you've had a traumatic brain injury."

This study, led by Deborah Barnes, PhD, MPH, of the University of California, San Francisco, looked at the risk of dementia in veterans who had experienced a traumatic brain injury.

The researchers followed up with 188,764 US veterans, all aged 55 or older, who had a Veterans Administration visit at least once between 2000-2003 and again between 2003-2012.

The study participants, who had an average age of 68 as a group, were limited to those who had not been diagnosed with dementia at the time of the first visit.

The researchers compared dementia in those who had sustained a traumatic brain injury with those who did not.

They adjusted their calculations to take into account age, sex, race/ethnicity, other medical conditions and psychiatric disorders that varied among the participants.

Over the nine years of follow-up, 16 percent of those who had had a traumatic brain injury developed dementia, compared with 10 percent of those without a traumatic brain injury.

This finding meant that those with a traumatic brain injury were 1.6 times more likely to develop dementia than those without.

The researchers also found that the dementia risk increased among those with traumatic brain injury if they also had other medical conditions that are known risk factors for dementia.

"Our results … raise concern about the potential long-term consequences of traumatic brain injury in younger veterans and civilians," the researchers wrote.

This study was published June 25 in the journal Neurology. The study was funded by the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health.

One author had reported on data safety monitoring for Takeda, Inc., and has consulted for Novartis. Other authors reported relationships with National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies, but no other industry links.

Review Date: 
June 27, 2014
Last Updated:
June 30, 2014