Factors identified linking deaths after brain injury

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Individuals suffering traumatic brain injuries tend to have a shorter lifespan than those without. Researchers are beginning to examine why that is in order to help prevent early deaths. A recent research article, "Physical, cognitive, and psychosocial characteristics associated with mortality in chronic TBI survivors: A National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems Study" was published by the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation (O'Neil-Pirozzi- T, Ketchum JM, Hammond FM, Phillipus A, Weber E, Dams-O'Connor K).  

The research analyzed data from 1163 decedents and 10839 control individuals. It looked at the following factors:

  • ·         Cognitive and psychosocial outcomes
  • ·         Functional Independence Measure (FIM)
  • ·         Extended Glasgow Outcome Scale
  • ·         Disability Rating Scale
  • ·         Participation Assessment
  • ·         Satisfaction with Life Scale

"Among individuals who died, we found significantly poorer performance on all measures, most significant was the difference in FIM Motor scores, which points to independence in mobility as an important factor for long-term survival in this population. Another big difference was in community participation”, notes co-author Erica Weber, PhD, research scientist in TBI Research at Kessler Foundation, and an investigator with the Northern New Jersey TBI Model System.

The conclusions of the study include the need for longer and more detailed study of the health and lifestyle factors of people living with TBI. By identifying the risk factors that are modifiable we should be able to develop strategies for early intervention that may prevent premature death, and which may significantly improve the lives of those living with TBI and their care givers.

Traumatic brain injury is expensive financially and emotionally. Leading causes of TBI in Canada include:

  • ·         45% Falls
  • ·         36% Motor vehicle accidents
  • ·         Assault
  • ·         Other  (sports and recreation, etc.)

Supports for those living with TBI in Canada are inconsistent and caring for people often falls to their families and friends who may not be fully equipped financially and emotionally for the task. The sooner that better post trauma care protocols and supports can be identified the better the outcomes for all will be.