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.