Head Injury: Higher Risk of Epilepsy Later in Life


PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, are injuries to the head from a sudden blow. As many as 50,000 people die every year from severe TBIs and another 80,000 are permanently disabled. Now, there’s evidence that people who sustain even moderate head injury later in life run an increased risk of developing epilepsy.

Whether it’s sports, a vehicle accident, or sudden fall, head injuries are linked to death, disability, and dementia as people age.

Now, a new study suggests TBIs increase the risk of seizures and epilepsy for older people.

“One head injury is associated with about 1.2 times increased risk but having more than one head injury is associated with over two times increased risk,” explains University of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Andrea Schneider.

Dr. Schneider and her colleagues studied 9,000 patients who suffered head injuries. Most were between the ages of 45 and 65 when the study began. The researchers examined the patients’ health records over 30 years and found the severity of the injury also made a difference.

“We found that those with moderate or severe injuries had higher risk of later seizures compared to the mild head injury group,” Dr. Schneider says about their findings.

In fact, those with moderate or severe head injuries had a five times increased risk of developing epilepsy – one more reason to protect the head and prevent a potentially disabling condition later on.

The researchers say falls are the number one cause of head injury among the elderly and this study highlights another reason why fall prevention is so important for seniors.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #5052

BACKGROUND: Traumatic brain injury, or TBIs are usually caused by some sort of blow or jolt to the head or body. Mild TBIs may affect the brain cells temporarily but in more serious cases the injury can result in bruising, torn tissue, bleeding, and other damage. These more serious injuries can cause other mental complications or death. After the traumatic event symptoms might not appear immediately; it could be days or weeks before you start to notice anything. Some physical symptoms may include headaches, nausea or vomiting, problems with speech and a few others. Sensory symptoms include blurred vision, ringing in the ears, bad taste, changes in the ability to smell, and sensitivity to light or sound. Cognitive or behavioral symptoms include memory or concentration problems, sleeping more than usual, feeling depressed or anxious, and mood changes. If you experience two or more of these symptoms and that is not normal for you, you should see a doctor.

(Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/traumatic-brain-injury/symptoms-causes)

DIAGNOSING: When diagnosing a head injury doctors will first do a neuro exam then will confirm the diagnosis through imaging tests like CT or MRI or they can measure a person’s function through three key areas: ability to speak, ability to open eyes, and the ability to move. Another name for this is GCS score. Another thing doctors will do is rank the TBI by a person’s consciousness, memory loss, and GCS score. To be considered as a mild TBI you have to have not lost consciousness, memory loss has lasted less than 24 hours, and the GCS score is between 13 to 15. On the other end of that, a severe TBI consists of a person being unconscious for more than 24 hours, memory loss lasted more than 7 days and the GCS source was an 8 or lower. A blood test can be used to diagnose TBIs and is an emerging area of research. In 2018 the Food and Drug Administration approved a blood test that detected UCH1-1 and GFAP proteins that are released to the brain when a mild concussion occurs.

(Source: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/tbi/conditioninfo/diagnose)

TREATMENT: If a mild head injury occurs usually the only treatment is rest and over- the – counter medication for the headaches. These patients should be monitored very closely at home for worsening symptoms, and they should have a follow up appointment just to make sure everything is okay. For severe and moderate patients, the focus for treatment in the beginning is ensuring that person has enough oxygen, a good blood supply, and steady blood pressure. Once all of that has been taken care of, the doctors will make sure to minimize secondary damage. Some medications that can be prescribed to those who have very severe injuries are anti-seizure drugs, coma- inducing drugs, and diuretics.

(Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/traumatic-brain-injury/diagnosis-treatment)


Kelsey Odorczyk


If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com