Traumatic Brain Injury Does Not Increase Risk of Dementia, According to New Study Led by a Mount Sinai Researcher

A history of traumatic brain injury with loss of consciousness is not associated with an elevated risk for developing dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease

New York
 – December 26, 2012 /Press Release/  –– 

A history of traumatic brain injury (TBI) with loss of consciousness (LOC) is not associated with an elevated risk for developing dementia or Alzheimer's Disease, according to a study led by a resesarcher at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. But recent TBI with LOC sustained in older adulthood is associated with an increased risk for mortality.

The research paper, titled "Risk for Late-life Re-injury, Dementia and Death Among Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury," was published November 21 in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

"There is a lot of conflicting information in the literature about the link between TBI and dementia. The findings from this study do not support the commonly held belief that TBI leads to dementia," said Kristen Dams-O'Connor, PhD, first author of the study and an Assistant Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Adults aged 65 or more who have had TBI with LOC at any time in their lives have a higher risk for subsequent re-injury, according to the study. This is the first study to look at the risk of re-injury among older adults. Researchers also found an increased risk for mortality, among older adults who report a recent TBI with LOC.

"The increased risk of re-injury in older adults as well as a link between recent TBI and mortality underscores the need for effective strategies to prevent injuries and re-injuries in this population," said Dr. Dams-O'Connor, who is also a psychologist.  

Dr. Dams-O'Connor collaborated with researchers from the University of Washington, the Swedish Neuroscience Institute , and the Group Health Research Institute (GHRI) in Seattle. The researchers evaluated data on 4,225 dementia-free individuals age 65 and older enrolled in the Adult Changes in Thought (ACT) study between 1994 and 2010. Participants were seen every two years for up to 16 years of follow up. The study examined a large cohort over a longer period of time than any previous study on this topic.

"The long-term health consequences of TBI remain poorly understood but it's important for individuals to be aware of the range of possible outcomes of brain injury in order to fully comprehend the need to prevent injury in the first place, particularly among older adults," said Dr. Dams-O'Connor.

The researchers now plan to investigate individual risk factors in an effort to understand why some people who sustain a TBI have poor long-term outcomes while others experience a trajectory of aging similar to the norm.

About The Mount Sinai Medical Center

The Mount Sinai Medical Center encompasses both The Mount Sinai Hospital and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Established in 1968, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is one of the leading medical schools in the United States. The Icahn School of Medicine is noted for innovation in education, biomedical research, clinical care delivery, and local and global community service. It has more than 3,400 faculty members in 32 departments and 14 research institutes, and ranks among the top 20 medical schools both in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding and by U.S. News & World Report.

The Mount Sinai Hospital, founded in 1852, is a 1,171-bed tertiary- and quaternary-care teaching facility and one of the nation’s oldest, largest and most-respected voluntary hospitals. In 2012, U.S. News & World Report ranked The Mount Sinai Hospital 14th on its elite Honor Roll of the nation’s top hospitals based on reputation, safety, and other patient-care factors. Mount Sinai is one of just 12 integrated academic medical centers whose medical school ranks among the top 20 in NIH funding and by U.S. News & World Report and whose hospital is on the U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll.  Nearly 60,000 people were treated at Mount Sinai as inpatients last year, and approximately 560,000 outpatient visits took place.

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