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Falls are Now the Most Common Cause of TBI in Adults

In the United States, traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a primary cause of death and disability. While in the past most TBIs were attributed to vehicular accidents, falls are now the most common cause of TBI, increasing by 34% between 2002 and 2006 alone. Because understanding how a patient sustained TBI is essential for proper treatment, researchers have begun to track these changing patterns of injury.

A group of clinicians studied changing trends over a five-year period using the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS), a tool designed to categorize the severity of a patients’ unconsciousness during a coma. They focused on a group of 481 adult patients who were admitted to the hospital with a GCS score of 3 – the most severe, indicating deep unconsciousness – after a fall-related or vehicle-related TBI. After analyzing demographic and medical characteristics, they found that:

  • The proportion of vehicle-related TBI remained steady, but fall-related TBI increased by 58%.
  • The population of patients who experienced falls became older over time, while the population who experienced vehicular injuries became younger over time (with an increase in alcohol-related accidents).
  • For both populations, mortality was predicted by TBI severity and by old age, and mortality from falls increased significantly over the course of the study.

As demography in the United States changes, so do the causes and consequences of TBI. Clinicians who remain up-to-date on the face of TBI are better able to allocate resources, monitor their patients’ quality of life, and implement TBI prevention measures.

Salottolo K, Carrick M, Levy AS, et al. The epidemiology, prognosis, and trends of severe traumatic brain injury with presenting Glasgow Coma Scale of 3. Journal of Critical Care. (2017.)


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