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After Traumatic Brain Injury, Increased Risk of Stroke Even Five Years Later Study Finds

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July 31, 2011

A new study found that people who suffer a traumatic brain injury are at significantly higher risk of having a stroke than those without, and that the risk can linger long after.

“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],” said Herng-Ching Lin, Ph.D., senior study author said in a release. “However, until now, no research had been done showing a correlation between traumatic brain injury and stroke.”

Researchers in Taiwan identified 23,199 patients receiving medical care for a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and 69,597 comparable patients receiving care for other non-TBI conditions and followed those patients for five years.

After adjusting for other risk factors, researchers found that patients with a TBI had 10.21 times greater risk of suffering a stroke within the first 3 months, 4.61 times greater risk of a stroke in the first year and 2.32 times greater risk of stroke in the first five years than their non-TBI counterparts.

1 in 53 Americans suffer a traumatic brain injury each year. This study is important because it is the first to look at the direct correlation between traumatic brain injury and subsequent stroke risk.

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

The study entitled Patients with Traumatic Brain Injury appears in this month’s issue of Stroke, a publication of the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association.

"Those that have had traumatic brain injury may differ from those who do not, and it may be these other differences that lead to stroke rather than the trauma itself," Dr. Larry B. Goldstein, director of the Duke University Stroke Center in Durham, NC, told USA Today. "Even minor trauma, however, can sometimes cause a tear in an artery that can compromise blood flow to the brain and cause a stroke."

“We suggest a need for more intensive medical monitoring and health education following TBI, especially during the first few months and years,” researchers concluded.