Traumatic brain injury on the rise

May 19th, 2017

The words ‘traumatic brain injury’ bring to mind car wrecks and football players with repetitive concussions. Increasingly, however, doctors are seeing traumatic brain injuries from ground-level falls and other seemingly inconsequential events.

Dr. George Cravens

Among Dr. George Cravens’ recent patients was a man in his 70s who bumped his head on the underside of the hood while loading groceries into the trunk of his car. He thought little of it, but later developed symptoms that troubled his wife enough to take him to the nearest hospital. A scan revealed a brain bleed, and he was rushed to JPS, home of Tarrant County’s Level I Trauma Center. Cravens, chief of Neurosurgery, took the man to surgery (which was successful).

“As our population gets older we’re seeing more and more people who are on meds, particularly anticoagulants, and a much higher incidence of complications from ground-level falls” and other events that might otherwise be harmless, Cravens told JPS doctors and nurses at this month’s Trauma Talk, an educational lecture series at JPS.

Anticoagulants inhibit formation of blood clots and are prescribed for people with cardiovascular conditions such as atrial fibrillation and those at risk for heart attack and stroke, all of which are growing more prevalent as older adults make up a greater percentage of the population. Novel oral anticoagulants such as Xarelto have become household names as drug companies market the need for less-frequent monitoring than with warfarin.

Being on an anticoagulant increases the risk of bleeding.

Traumatic brain injuries, often referred to as TBIs, account for 2.5 million emergency room visits and hospitalizations every year in the United States. Falls are the leading cause of TBIs, followed by motor vehicle crashes.

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