Traumatic brain injury hastens onset of Alzheimer's disease

November 01, 1999

ROCHESTER, MINN. -- Does a traumatic brain injury (TBI) increase the risk of someone getting Alzheimer's Disease later in life? Studies have been inconclusive on this question. But a recent Mayo Clinic study found evidence that Alzheimer's begins much earlier in people who previously suffered a head injury.

Researchers looked for evidence of the onset of Alzheimer's Disease in medical records of more than 1,280 residents of Olmsted County, Minnesota (where Mayo Clinic Rochester is located) who had suffered traumatic brain injuries between 1935 and 1984 and who were at least 40 years old at last follow-up. They compared their results with a group of 689 community members diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, but with no history of head trauma.

They found that the median observed time from injury to onset of Alzheimer's was 10 years in the TBI group. This was significantly less than the expected time of 18 years to onset in the non-head-injury group. Although the overall incidence of Alzheimer's among TBI cases was similar to that expected, based on rates for the Olmsted County population, the number of TBI cases with onset of Alzheimer's before age 75 was more than twice that expected.

They say the results point toward a traumatic brain injury interacting with other factors to hasten the onset of Alzheimer's Disease in susceptible individuals. The study was published in American Journal of Epidemiology.
Mike O'Hara
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Mayo Clinic

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