Brain Injuries on the Rise

Far too many people in Massachusetts suffer head injuries stemming from traumatic personal injury events.  These injuries run the gamut from the fairly innocuous, to the catastrophic.  Here is an article provided courtesy of Reuters concerning the recent and sudden rise in the number of head injuries throughout the nation:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – More Americans are being hospitalized with very serious head injuries, and government statisticians say they don’t know why.

Statisticians on Wednesday reported a 38 percent increase in hospital admissions for the most serious kind of head injury, type 1 traumatic brain injury, between 2001 and 2004. The biggest single cause was falls.

The rate had been declining for 10 years so the finding is puzzling, said Dr. Claudia Steiner of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

"We take our data, we look at it, then we see these kinds of trends," Steiner said in a telephone interview.

She said she hopes the report would spur people with more expertise in the area and policymakers to look into the issue and see what the causes are.

Traumatic brain injury occurs when the head suddenly and violently hits an object or when something pierces the skull and enters the brain. It can cause a range of symptoms from dizziness to coma and can be fatal.

The researchers found that in 2004, nearly 204,000 people were treated in hospitals for traumatic brain injury at a cost of $3.2 billion. About 70 percent had the worst type, the type 1 injury.

Of these, 40 percent were caused by falls, such as down stairs, off ladders or on ice. Vehicle accidents caused 26 percent, shootings accounted for 2 percent and bicycle or similar accidents caused 4 percent.

Nearly 36 percent of those treated for these brain injuries were aged 65 or older, while 31 percent were adults aged 18 to 44. Children accounted for 15 percent of cases.

About 13 percent the patients died in the hospital and another 28 percent were transferred to a nursing home or other long-term facility.

The figures do not include military personnel or people treated at Veterans Affairs hospitals. Nor did they include people who died before they made it to the hospital, Steiner said.