Study: Traumatic brain injury in veterans may increase risk of dementia

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Veterans who have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) are 60 percent more likely to later develop dementia than veterans without TBI, according to a study published in the June 25, 2014, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The study also found that veterans with a history of TBI developed dementia about two years earlier than those without TBI who had developed dementia.


Barnes

“These findings raise concern about the consequences of blast-related injuries in today’s veterans, as well as the growing rate of TBIs in the civilian population,” said study author Deborah E. Barnes, PhD, MPH, of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. Other study collaborators at UCSF included Allison Kaup, PhDAmy Byers, PhD, MPH; and Kristine Yaffe, MD.

The study involved 188,784 veterans with an average age of 68 at the start of the study. All were free of dementia at the start of the study and had at least one visit to a VA health care facility at the start of the study and again an average of seven years later. 

A total of 1,229 of the veterans had a TBI diagnosis. During the follow-up period, 196 veterans with TBI, or 16 percent, developed dementia, compared to 18,255, or 10 percent of those without TBI. After adjusting for other factors that could affect the risk of dementia, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, depression and alcohol abuse, researchers determined that veterans with TBI were 60 percent more likely to develop dementia than those without TBI. 

On average, veterans with TBI developed dementia two years earlier than those without TBI, or at age 78.5 compared to 80.7. Also, those who did not develop dementia died 2.3 years earlier if they had a TBI versus no TBI (77.0 years versus 79.3 years). The researchers also found that the risk of dementia was higher in veterans with TBI who also had depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or cerebrovascular disease than in those with either TBI or these other conditions alone. 

“This study convincingly shows that mild trauma has a role in increasing the risk of dementia,” said Rodolfo Savica, MD, MSc, of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study.\

The study was supported by the U.S. Department of Defense/NCIRE and the National Institutes of Health.

To learn more about traumatic brain injury and dementia,  visit www.aan.com/patients.

About UCSF

UCSF is the nation’s leading university exclusively focused on health. Now celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding as a medical college, UCSF is dedicated to transforming health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy; a graduate division with world-renowned programs in the biological sciences, a preeminent biomedical research enterprise and two top-tier hospitals, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco.

About the American Academy of Neurology

The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 27,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, brain injury, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.

 

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