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Is Traumatic Brain Injury Linked To Dementia?

Blackwell Law Firm - Helping Alabama TBI VictimsWe have prepared many cases involving traumatic brain injury (TBI). This includes TBI caused by both automobile accidents and workplace accidents. TBI cases are very different than your “normal” car wreck or personal injury case.

Do you think routine medical professionals typically understand TBI? Think again. TBI is often misunderstood by medical professionals. Many medical professionals have wrong opinions about TBI. I’ve heard non-specialists WRONGLY state a patient has no TBI because a CT scan came back normal. In truth, many patients with mild TBI have normal scans. I’ve heard non-specialists WRONGLY assume a person with a “mild” TBI will always recover fully. Wrong again. While many mild TBI patients do recover, some continue to suffer long-term or permanent impairments. Many doctors and nurses do NOT understand this injury. That lack of understanding also makes TBI cases very difficult.

Because so many people fail to understand TBI cases, we advocate for strong family involvement. The injured person’s closest family and friends are typically in the best position to observe changes in behavior, emotion, memory or cognitive ability. We also recommend testing and treatment by specialists.

In past blog posts, we’ve discussed our concern that emergency rooms and doctors often fail to diagnose cases of mild TBI. We’ve also written about a number of ways in which even a TBI classified as “mild” can permanently injure and impair a person. Mild TBI can lead to significant changes in personality, mood, judgment, memory and cognitive ability. These changes can impair functions necessary to work and even cause disability in some patients. You can read a few of my past TBI articles on this blog.

A recent U.S. News & World Report article asks whether mild TBI cases are linked to the development of dementia in people as they age. On a practical level, it is consistent to believe an injury to the brain could create changes impacting functioning as the patient ages. While logical, medical data or studies would require monitoring patients for many years. Has a group now conducted the long-term study needed to review this issue? Apparently so. The article cites a study recently published in The Lancet Psychiatry (Lancet).

The Lancet study involved a review of 2.8 million patient records. After reviewing these records, researchers found people with a TBI had a 24% higher risk of dementia. That’s significant. Yet, the first question I had upon reading that statistic was whether the researchers distinguished between mild and more severe TBI. Remember, even a TBI classified as “mild” can cause life-changing impairments in some cases. Well, I should have finished the research before asking myself this question. The researchers had the same question. Yes, the researchers dug deeper and distinguished between TBI injuries classified as “mild” and those classified as “severe.”

What researchers found is very significant. One incident of a “mild” TBI (or concussion) increased the risk of later dementia by 17 percent. According to the lead author of the Lancet study:

What surprised us was that even a single mild TBI was associated with a significantly higher risk of dementia.

For a patient with TBI, this information is valuable. While the statistic is significant, you are not destined for dementia. Rather, this should provide even more motivation to find the right specialists for your injury, to complete needed rehabilitation, and to stay as mentally active as possible. At the Blackwell Law Firm, we want our clients to focus first on their healing. As lawyers, this research also helps us address the issue of damages with the treating specialists in order to fully explain how a TBI may have impacted our clients.

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At the Blackwell Law Firm we specialize in personal injury cases. From our office in Huntsville, we represent clients across Alabama. We believe in preparation. This means we spend considerable time studying and researching the medical issues in order to best prepare for our clients. If you have questions, call us. Consultations are always free and confidential.