MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Raquel C. Gardner, MD, Research Fellow
San Francisco VA Medical Center
Memory and Aging Center, Department of Neurology
University of California, San Francisco
Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?
Dr. Gardner: We found that people who experience a traumatic brain injury (TBI )when they are 55 or older have a 26% higher chance of getting dementia over the next 5 to 7 years compared to people who experience bodily trauma.
Medical Research: What was most surprising about the results?
Dr. Gardner: We looked carefully at the effect of age and traumatic brain injury severity. We divided TBI into 2 groups: mild traumatic brain injury (meaning a blow to the head leading to brief confusion, unconsciousness, or other disruption of brain function) and more severe traumatic brain injury (meaning a blow to the head leading to prolonged confusion, unconsciousness, or other disruption of brain function).
Surprisingly, while more severe TBI increased the chance of getting dementia for people 55 and older, mild traumatic brain injury only increased the chance of getting dementia for those 65 and older. This was surprising and suggests that the older brain may be especially vulnerable to traumatic brain injury, regardless of the severity. Or to spin it more positively, the younger brain may be more resilient to mild traumatic brain injury.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Gardner: In this study comparing risk of dementia among people with brain trauma compared to bodily trauma, most of the traumas were due to falls. I hope that these results will highlight the critical importance of preventing falls in older adults. Most doctors and patients understand the importance of preventing falls in order to prevent bodily injuries. This study suggests that fall prevention may not only prevent bodily injury, but may even help prevent dementia.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Gardner: We really need to figure out the underlying mechanisms and the underlying biology of dementia after traumatic brain injury. Once we figure this out, we will have a shot at developing treatments and cures.