Clinical Topics   /   Neurology

TBI Increases Dementia Risks for Older Veterans

USM By U.S. Medicine
August 5, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS – Experiencing a traumatic brain injury (TBI) ups the risk 60% for older veterans to later develop dementia, according to a recent study.

The report, published recently in the journal Neurology, also found that, among all veterans developing dementia, veterans with a history of TBI developed cognitive issues about two years earlier than those without that type of head injury.1

“These findings suggest that a history of TBI contributes risk for dementia in later life in veterans. If we assume that this relationship is causal, it seems likely that the same increased risk probably occurs with TBI in the civilian population, as well,” said lead author Deborah E. Barnes, PhD, MPH, of the San Francisco VAMC and the University of California, San Francisco.

Study background notes that TBI “is common in military personnel, and there is growing concern about the long-term effects of TBI on the brain; however, few studies have examined the association between TBI and risk of dementia in veterans.”

The research involved 1,229 veterans with a TBI diagnosis identified through a retrospective cohort study of 188,784 veterans who, at the beginning of the research, were an average age of 68, free of dementia and had received VA treatment.

During the nine-year follow-up period, 196 veterans with TBI, about 16%, developed dementia, compared with 18,255, or 10% of those without TBI. After adjusting for other factors that could affect the risk of dementia, including diabetes, high blood pressure, depression and alcohol abuse, researchers determined that veterans with TBI were 60% more likely to develop dementia than those without TBI.

Researchers also identified an additive association between TBI and other conditions –depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or cerebrovascular disease — on risk of developing dementia.

On average, veterans with TBI developed dementia two years earlier than those without TBI, or at age 78.5 compared with 80.7, the authors write. Also, those who did not develop dementia died 2.3 years earlier if they had a TBI vs. no TBI (77.0 years vs. 79.3 years).

“TBI in older veterans was associated with a 60% increase in the risk of developing dementia over nine years after accounting for competing risks and potential confounders,” the authors concluded. “Our results suggest that TBI in older veterans may predispose toward development of symptomatic dementia and raise concern about the potential long-term consequences of TBI in younger veterans and civilians.”

The author of an accompanying editorial suggested that the research is persuasive.

“This study convincingly shows that mild trauma has a role in increasing the risk of dementia and sheds light on the more complex relationship between medical and psychiatric diseases with TBI in the development of the future risk of dementias. Neuroscientists must take a careful and comprehensive approach and avoid oversimplified claims of causality,” wrote Rodolfo Savica, MD, MSc, of the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City.

1 Barnes DE, Kaup A, Kirby KA, Byers AL, Diaz-Arrastia R, Yaffe K. Traumatic brain injury and risk of dementia in older veterans. Neurology. 2014 Jun 25. pii: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000000616. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 24966406.


Related Articles

Military Services Develop Remote Monitoring to Improve Battlefield Medicine

What if battlefield medics could monitor multiple injured servicemembers in the field thought a new electronic monitoring tool?

How Veterans Feel About Remote Management of Their Care

While implantable devices have shown promise in reducing rehospitalization for heart failure (HF), VA researchers sought to determine if options that are less expensive and non-invasive would have comparable results.


U.S. Medicine Recommends


More From department of defense dod

Department of Defense (DoD)

High Rate of Pectoralis Tears Among Deployed Servicemembers Lifting Weights

Lifting weights is one way servicemembers keep in peak physical condition during deployment.

Department of Defense (DoD)

DoD Study Finds That Type 2 Diabetes Increases Breast Cancer Mortality

Having Type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM-2) increases mortality risk in breast cancer patients, regardless of whether diabetes was diagnosed before or after breast cancer, according to a recent study.

Department of Defense (DoD)

Now Hear This: Otolaryngologist Leads Effort to Prevent Auditory Issues

Among those who are exposed to combat, it’s the weapons fire that does it. In the Navy, it’s the noise levels in engine rooms and on the decks of carriers.

Department of Defense (DoD)

GAO: ‘Gaps’ in MHS Physician Specialties Could Affect Wartime Readiness

WASHINGTON — The military services need to develop “targeted and coordinated strategies” to alleviate military physician gaps, a recent report recommended.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

VA Vows to Meet Deadline for Revamp of Veteran Claims Appeal Process

WASHINGTON—VA has told legislators that the agency is on track with a new law that will give veterans more options to have their claims appeals reviewed.

Facebook Comment

Subscribe to U.S. Medicine Print Magazine

U.S. Medicine is mailed free each month to physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and administrators working for Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense and U.S. Public Health Service.

Subscribe Now

Receive Our Email Newsletter

Stay informed about federal medical news, clinical updates and reports on government topics for the federal healthcare professional.

Sign Up