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  Hospitalizations for Traumatic Brain Injuries on the Rise

From 2006 to 2010, researchers were surprised to find a substantial increase in the number of patients admitted to hospital emergency rooms for traumatic brain injuries.

Over the past couple years, doctors and safety experts have focused an increasing amount of attention on traumatic brain injuries. Recent research indicates that the damage caused by even mild traumatic brain injuries can be more severe than once believed and, what is worse, it appears that these sorts of injuries are becoming more common.

Recently, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine conducted a study of data on traumatic brain injuries collected in a database known as the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample. Their work, which was published in the most recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, indicates that hospitalizations for traumatic brain injuries increased approximately 30 percent between 2006 and 2010.

The NEDS database contains data on approximately 25 to 50 million hospital visits collected from 950 hospitals across the U.S. Overall, the database represents a 20 percent sample of emergency department visits.

The NEDS data shows that about 2.5 million individuals were admitted to hospital emergency rooms for traumatic brain injuries in 2010. This marks an increase of just under 30 percent from 2006, compared to an overall increase in emergency room visits of just 3.6 percent. In most cases, those who were admitted to the emergency room for traumatic brain injuries were treated and released.

Interestingly, the largest increases in traumatic brain injury diagnoses occurred in very young patients and patients over the age of 60. The authors of the University of Pittsburgh study believe this may indicate that patients in these age ranges are not benefiting from public awareness campaigns regarding the use of safety equipment both while working at job sites and while participating in high-contact sporting events.

The reason for the dramatic increase in hospitalizations over just five years is unclear. The study’s authors think that increased awareness of the seriousness of even seemingly minor head injuries among both the public at large and doctors may have played a role. In addition, as studies have allowed doctors to better understand traumatic brain injuries, there has also been increased attention to improving diagnostic tests and procedures.




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