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TBI may increase veterans’ long-term stroke risk

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Military veterans who had a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may be at an increased long-term risk of stroke, according to preliminary research.

The study of more than 610,000 US veterans found that those who had had a head injury faced a 69 per cent increased risk of stroke.

The veterans faced the highest stroke risk in the first year following an injury, but the risk remained high for a decade or more.

The risk was greater in veterans who had more severe injuries.

Previous research has shown a short-term association between TBI and stroke.

The new study shows that “this risk persists for years after injury,” said Dr Andrea Schneider, assistant professor of neurology and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia.

The researchers looked at 306,796 people in a Veterans Health Administration database who had a TBI between October 2002 and September 2019.

They then compared their risk of stroke to an equal number of people who had not experienced TBI.

Overall, there were 10.3 strokes 1,000 people in the TBI group compared to 5.7 who had not sustained a TBI.

After adjusting for factors such smoking status, medical background, income and education, TBI increased the risk of stroke by 69 per cent.

The risk varied by stroke type, with ischemic stroke risk 56 per cent higher in the TBI group and haemorrhagic stroke nearly four times higher in the TBI group.

Dr. Mitch Elkind, a neurologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, was not involved in the study, said:

“This study provides evidence that traumatic head injury may lead to a long-term increased risk of both ischemic and, particularly, haemorrhagic stroke.”

It is possible that medication, or lack of medication, may have played a role in the association, Elkind said.

Schneider agreed that more research was needed.

However, the findings suggest people with brain injuries should be aware of the possibility of permanent damage that may affect their blood vessels, she said.

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