Traumatic Brain Injury and Premature Death

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October 24, 2014
Edward Smith


A JAMA study published in January concluded that people who have sustained traumatic brain injuries (TBI) were more likely to experience a premature death, which is defined as dying before 56 years of age.

The researchers followed everyone born in 1954 and later in Sweden who had been treated medically (outpatient or inpatient) for TBI between 1969 and 2009.  The total number of people who followed under these criteria was 218,300.  The researchers looked at death rates at least six months after the brain injury and compared them with the general population.  The study also considered the death rates of siblings of people within the study.

Researchers found that people who had suffered TBI were three times more likely to die prematurely than those unaffected.  The rate of premature death in the general population is 0.2%.  The rate jumped 20 times higher when the TBI was superimposed on a pre-existing psychiatric diagnosis.  TBI sufferers were 2.6 times more likely than their unaffected siblings to die prematurely.  Looking at siblings allowed the research to account for genetic factors and early environment, according to the study’s lead author, Dr. Seena Fezel, of Oxford University’s Psychiatry Department.

The causes of death among those TBI patients who died prematurely fit a unique pattern – the death was more likely to result from suicide, fatal injury, or assault.  Some well-documented symptoms of TBI include personality changes, such as impulsiveness, which could account for some of the reasoning behind this phenomenon.

Traumatic brain injuries are a typical result of automobile accidents.  Symptoms can be mild or severe and often require treatment by a specialist, such as a neuropsychologist.  If you or someone you know has suffered a brain injury due to an automobile, boating, or motorcycle accident, please contact a Sacramento attorney experienced in handling traumatic brain injury cases, Edward A. Smith.  Edward A. Smith and reviews are available on Yelp and other sites, such as Avvo.