Traumatic Brain Injury ER Visits Saw a Jump

Traumatic brain injuries at emergency room departments increased in recent years

(RxWiki News) A bang on the head that can lead to temporary memory loss is not just a Hollywood creation. A new study showed these brain injuries are not only real, but also may be causing more hospital visits.

This new study looked at emergency department visits for traumatic brain injuries in the US.

The study found that from 2006 to 2010, these hospital visits increased by more than a quarter.

"Wear a properly fitted helmet when riding a bike."

In cases of traumatic brain injury, an injury to the head, like a bump, blow or jolt, causes problems in the brain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these injuries can be mild and cause only a brief change in consciousness, or more severe and lead to a prolonged period of unconsciousness and in some cases, amnesia.

The authors of this new study, which was led by Jennifer R. Marin, MD, MSc, of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, wanted to examine trends in the US of rates of emergency department visits for traumatic brain injuries.

To do so, Dr. Marin and team used the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample database, which includes data from over 950 hospitals across the country. The researchers looked for instances of visits for traumatic brain injuries at these emergency departments between 2006 and 2010.

During this time, 138,223,016 emergency department visits were examined, 1.7 percent of which were for traumatic brain injury.

The researchers found that the rate of traumatic brain injury visits increased by 29.1 percent over the course of the study period — from 18.9 percent in 2006 to 39.2 percent in 2010. However, the researchers estimated that the rate of total emergency department visits only increased by 3.6 percent over the same time period.

Dr. Marin and team estimated that traumatic brain injuries accounted for 2,544,087 emergency department visits in 2010.

The greatest increases in rates of traumatic brain injuries were seen in children under the age of 3 and adults over the age of 60. The researchers noted that most injuries were reported to be minor, and most of the patients were sent home from the emergency room.

Still, around 40 percent of patients had at least one other injury, most commonly open wounds, sprains, strains and fractures. Falling was the most commonly reported cause of traumatic brain injuries.

"This increase in TBI [traumatic brain injury] visits, largely due to increased visits for concussion and unspecified head injury, may reflect a variety of factors, including increased TBI exposure, awareness, diagnoses, or a combination," wrote Dr. Marin and team.

This study did not include patients who died before arriving at the hospital. Further research looking at different medical centers is needed.

CDC recommends a number of steps to prevent traumatic brain injuries, including the proper use of gear like child car safety seats, seat belts, sports helmets and installation of proper railing near stairs.

The study was published May 13 in JAMA. Funding for the study was provided by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
May 11, 2014