The rate of visits to EDs for traumatic brain injury increased nearly 30% between 2006 and 2010, which might be partly because of increased awareness and diagnoses, according to a study.
In the past decade, TBI garnered increased attention, including public campaigns and legislation to increase awareness and prevent head injuries. The CDC describes TBI as a serious public health concern, according to background information in the research letter, which was published in the May 14 issue of JAMA.
For the study, Jennifer R. Marin, MD, MSc, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and colleagues used data from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample database to determine national trends in ED visits for TBI from 2006-10. NEDS is a nationally representative data source including 25 million to 50 million visits from more than 950 hospitals each year, representing a 20% stratified sample of EDs.
The researchers found in 2010 there were more than 2.5 million ED visits for TBI, representing a 29.1% increase in the rate of visits for TBI during the study period. However, total ED visits increased by 3.6% during the same time period. The majority of the increase in the incidence of TBI occurred in visits coded as concussion or unspecified head injury.
Children younger than 3 years and adults older than 60 years had the largest increase in TBI rates, the findings showed. The majority of visits were for minor injuries, and most patients were discharged from the ED.
The findings also showed patients in 40% of the ED visits for TBI also had at least one other injury. These injuries included open wounds on the head, neck or torso (20.7%), sprains and strains (11.3%), and fractures not involving the face (7.8%). Most of the TBI cases involved falls, researchers found.
The authors suggest the increase in TBI among the very young and very old may indicate these age groups do not benefit as much from public health interventions, such as concussion and helmet laws and safer sports practices.
This study was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.