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Head Injury While Young Ups Epilepsy Risk

But treatment can prevent the illness from emerging, Danish researchers say

MONDAY, Feb. 23, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Children and young adults who suffer a traumatic brain injury are at high risk of developing epilepsy for more than 10 years after the injury, Danish researchers report.

But there's good news, too: treatments carried out during that time period may help prevent epilepsy, the team adds.

"Traumatic brain injury is a significant risk indicator for epilepsy many years after the injury. Drug treatment after brain injury with the aim of preventing post-traumatic epilepsy has been discouraging, but our data suggest a long time interval for potential, preventive treatment of high-risk patients," wrote Dr. Jakob Christensen, of the neurology department at Aarhus University Hospital, and colleagues.

Their analysis of national data on young people revealed that the risk of epilepsy was more than doubled among people who'd suffered a mild brain injury or skull fracture and was seven time higher than normal in those who'd suffered a serious brain injury.

Even after more than 10 years, people who'd suffered a mild brain injury were 1.5 times more likely than normal to develop epilepsy, those who'd suffered skull fractures had twice the risk, and those who'd suffered severe brain injury had 4.5 times the risk.

The risk of epilepsy was most pronounced in those older than 15 years -- mild brain injury increased the risk for this group by 3.5 times and severe brain injury increased the risk by more than 12 times.

The researchers also found that female brain injury patients had a slightly higher risk than males and that the risk was especially high among patients with a family history of epilepsy -- almost six times the risk for those with mild brain injury and 10 times the risk for those with severe brain injury.

The study was released online Monday by The Lancet and will be published in an upcoming print issue of the journal.

More information

The Epilepsy Foundation has more about epilepsy.

SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, Feb. 23, 2009
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