Overall, patients with a history of head injury had more than a twofold greater risk of death than did two control groups of individuals without head injury.
Among young adults, the risk disparity ballooned to more than a fivefold difference, Scottish investigators reported online in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.
“More than 40% of young people and adults admitted to hospital in Glasgow after a head injury were dead 13 years later,” Dr. Thomas M. McMillan, of the University of Glasgow, and coauthors wrote in the discussion of their findings. “This stark finding is not explained by age, gender, or deprivation characteristics.”
“As might be expected following an injury, the highest rate of death occurred in the first year after head injury,” they continued. “However, risk of death remained high for at least a further 12 years when, for example, death was 2.8 times more likely after head injury than for community controls.”
Previous studies of mortality after head injury have focused primarily on early death, either during hospitalization or in the first year after the injury. Whether the excess mortality risk persists over time has remained unclear, the authors noted.
Few studies have compared mortality after head injury with expected mortality in the community. To provide that missing context, McMillan and coauthors conducted a case-control study involving 757 patients who incurred head injuries of varying severity from February 1995 to February 1996 and were admitted to a Glasgow-area hospital.
For comparison, the investigators assembled two control groups, both matched with the cases for age, sex, and socioeconomic status and one matched for duration of hospitalization after injury not involving the head.
One control group was comprised of persons hospitalized for other injured and other comparison group included healthy non-hospitalized adults.
The cases comprised 602 men and 155 women who had a mean age of 43, and almost 70 percent were in the lowest socioeconomic quintile.
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