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New Study Links Traumatic Brain Injury to Premature Death

A recent study more than forty years in the making indicated that “people who sustain traumatic brain injuries may be three times more likely to die young,” reported CBS News. According to the study, which was published in JAMA Psychiatry, younger people who sustain severe brain traumas are “more likely to die prematurely.” The study termed premature deaths as those occurring before the age of 56. And that risk grows for people who were diagnosed with psychiatric disorders, in addition to the traumatic brain injury (TBI).

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TBIs are very serious injuries, and contemporary research on the brain suggests that repeated concussions and other head traumas have severe consequences. Have you sustained a traumatic brain injury? You may be eligible to seek financial compensation. An aggressive San Diego brain injury lawyer can discuss your claim with you today.

Details of the Brain Injury Study

Researchers tracked a total of 218,300 patients who received either inpatient or outpatient care in Sweden for a traumatic brain injury between the years 1969 and 2009. All of the participants in the study were born after 1954. The first thing the researchers tracked was “death rates for patients who passed at least six months after sustaining the TBI,” and then they compared those figures with the general population, as well as the lifespan of the patient’s siblings. Siblings who weren’t affected by a TBI functioned as a control for “genetic factors” that could play a role in the rate of premature death.

But could all of these deaths really have been linked to the earlier TBI sustained by the patient? The researchers took into account the way in which the patient died and indicated whether the cause of death had been suicide, and accident/injury, or an intentional assault. The researchers also took particular note of the patient’s sex, the age at which they died, the severity of the brain injury, the time to diagnosis (after sustaining the injury), and schedules of follow-up treatment.

What can the statistics tell us? In short, the results of the study make clear that sustaining a TBI places you at greater risk for committing suicide, becoming the victim of an assault, and/or suffering a fatal injury. In general, only about .2 percent of people who have never sustained a traumatic brain injury die prematurely. However, according to the data in the study, TBI patients are three times more likely to die young. The researchers also emphasize that “those who had a TBI and a previous psychiatric disorder diagnosis had a 20 times higher rate of early death.”

Indeed, compared with their siblings, TBI patients were 2.6 times more likely to suffer a premature death. The lead author of the study, Dr. Seena Fazel, described these results as “striking,” as they emphasize just how big a role TBIs and subsequent psychiatric issues can play in premature deaths.

What Can We Do to Prevent TBI-Related Premature Deaths?

According to Dr. Fazel, who conducts research at Oxford University’s department of psychiatry, it’s important for policymakers to think about changing assessment guidelines when it comes to TBIs. Fazel explained that “current guidelines do not recommend assessments of mental health or suicide risk in TBI patients, instead of focusing on short-term survival.” In other words, according to Fazel, “it may make more sense to treat some TBI patients as suffering from a chronic problem requiring longer term management.”

In addition, those treating TBI patients should carefully monitor them for “signs of depression, substance abuse and other psychiatric disorders” related to the traumatic brain injury. Have you or a loved one recently sustained a brain trauma? Contact an experienced California injury lawyer at the Walton Law Firm today.

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