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Long-Term Effects of “Mild” Traumatic Brain Injuries (mTBIs)

Mild” TBIs may cause significant and permanent injuries. Many studies conclude that 10-20% of persons with mTBIs have long-term or permanent injuries, and some studies report the percentages are significantly higher. mTBIs may cause several life-altering symptoms including poor attention and concentration, memory problems/confusion, difficulty with multi-tasking, headaches, fatigue, sleep disturbances, dizziness/vertigo/loss of balance, irritability, depression, anxiety, and seizures. Other symptoms include nausea, loss of smell (and taste), mood changes, and slowness in thinking. While it’s been known for many years that some persons with mTBIs suffer permanent injuries, more recently two studies have shown that a single mTBI can cause an increased risk of dementia, and brain volume loss changes that correlate to the patients’ symptoms and neuropsychological test results. In the first study (“Increased Risk of Dementia in Patients with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: A Nationwide Cohort Study”) the authors report that: “The incidence rate of dementia is 1.8 per 1000 person-year in patients with mTBI and 0.3 per 1000 in patient-year in those without.” In this study the results showed a six times greater risk of dementia in those with a mTBI versus those without. In the second study (“Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: Longitudinal Regional Brain Volume Changes”) the authors conclude that one year after mTBI there is measurably greater brain atrophy with mTBI patients compared to patients without mTBI. For patients and loved ones of those with mTBIs, these studies highlight the importance of a thorough medical and neuropsychological workup to understand the long-term implications of brain injuries whose effects may be life-altering.