According to Dr. Ricardo E. Jorge, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa, traumatic brain injury constitutes a major public health concern. With an estimated 1.5 million Americans sustaining a TBI and some 90,000 of those ending up with a long-term disability, you can see where Dr. Jorge’s concerns come from.
In a recent Psychiatric Times article, Dr. Jorge draws our attention to the impact of reintegrating TBI patients into society, taking into consideration their cognition and behavioral changes. He also states that cognitive, emotional and behavioral problems make up the majority of TBI disabilities.
Using 939 TBI patients and a control group of 2,817, doctors compared the prevalence of psychiatric illness in the first year that follows moderate, severe and mild TBI. 49 percent of patients experienced mental illness after moderate to severe TBI and 34 percent after mild TBI. Compare these results to that of the control group with only an 18 percent occurrence.
What these numbers mean is that patients with moderate to severe TBI are 4 times more likely than the general population to develop a psychiatric illness in the six months following their injury. 61 percent of those evaluated eight years after sustaining a TBI suffered from major depression and anxiety disorders, a significant amount more than those in the control group.
Along with the increased number of mood disorders in TBI patients, researchers also found structural and/or functional alternations in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, indicating that structural brain damage plays a large part in psychiatric illness. Furthermore, not only does the TBI-caused damage to the prefrontal regions and limbic structures initiate mood disorders, but the disturbed neural circuits often continue to wreak havoc in the brain causing the illness to progress and evolve over time.
While this information is not exactly inspirational, it does help to create an awareness of the severity of TBI. Not only should this draw our attention to the importance of using protective gear such as helmets, but it also should emphasize the need for proper and immediate care after a traumatic brain injury is experienced. Please see our articles on oxygen therapy for some ideas of how to help prevent and even reverse some of the damage