July 29, 2011

Brain Injury: A Major Risk for Stroke

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Patients who suffer a traumatic brain injury have a 10-fold increased risk of having a stroke within three months, according to new research.

A traumatic brain injury happens when an external force, such as a blow or jolt to the head, disrupts the normal function of the brain. Some common causes of a traumatic brain injury include falls, car accidents and violence. About 1 in 53 Americans suffers a traumatic brain injury each year.

"It's reasonable to assume that cerebrovascular damage in the head caused by a traumatic brain injury can trigger either a hemorrhagic stroke [when a blood vessel bursts inside the brain] or an ischemic stroke [when an artery in the brain is blocked]," Herng-Ching Lin, Ph.D., senior study author and professor at the School of Health Care Administration, College of Medicine, Taipei Medical University in Taiwan, was quoted as saying. "However, until now, no research had been done showing a correlation between traumatic brain injury and stroke."

Investigators studied the risk of stroke in traumatic brain injury patients during a five-year period. During the first three months after the injury occurred, 2.91 percent of the traumatic brain injury patients suffered a stroke compared to only 0.30 percent of those without a traumatic brain injury.

The researchers say the risk of stroke gradually decreased over time. After one year, the risk was about 4.6-times greater for traumatic brain injury patients, and after five years, the risk was about 2.3-times greater.

Results also showed the risk of stroke among the brain injury patients with skull bone fractures was more pronounced than in those without fractures. During the first three months, those with the skull fractures were 20-times more likely to have a stroke. This risk also decreased over time, according to the authors.

"Stroke is the most serious and disabling neurological disorder worldwide," Lin said. "Our study leads the way in identifying stroke as an additional neurological problem that may arise following traumatic brain injury."

SOURCE: American Heart Association, July 28, 2011