WASHINGTON – People who survive traumatic brain injuries are three times likelier than the general population to die early, often from suicide or fatal injury, said a study released Wednesday.
The findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry suggest a need for longer-term care and follow-up of the millions of people who suffer these injuries each year.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be caused by a blow to the head that results in skull fracture, internal bleeding, loss of consciousness for over an hour or a combination of these, said the report.
Researchers at Oxford University and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm compared medical records from more than 218,000 TBI survivors to 150,000 siblings of TBI survivors as well as 2 million control cases.
“We found that people who survive six months after TBI remain three times more likely to die prematurely than the control population and 2.6 times more likely to die than unaffected siblings,” said study leader Seena Fazel, from Oxford University’s Department of Psychiatry. Premature death was defined as dying before the age of 56.
The main causes of premature death in TBI survivors were suicide and fatal injuries such as car accidents and falls.
“TBI survivors are more than twice as likely to kill themselves as unaffected siblings,” and many were diagnosed with psychiatric disorders after their injury, said Fazel.
Current guidelines do not call on doctors to assess mental health or suicide risk in TBI patients.