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Incidence of TBI among older adults 'alarmingly high'

Incidence of TBI among older adults 'alarmingly high'
Incidence of TBI among older adults 'alarmingly high'


Top line:

A new study finds that about 13 percent of older adults in the United States were treated for a traumatic brain injury (TBI) over an 18-year period.


  • The researchers analyzed data from approximately 9,200 Medicare enrollees aged 65 and older who participated in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) from 2000 to 2018.
  • The reference date was the date of the first HRS core interview in the community after 2000 that met the age requirement.
  • Incident TBI cases were obtained from updated lists of International Classification of Diseases (ICD) 9th and 10th edition codes from the Defense and Veterans Affairs Brain Injury Center and the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division for TBI surveillance.
  • Codes corresponded to emergency department, CT, and/or fMRI visits.


  • Approximately 13% (n = 797) of older adults experienced a TBI during the study period, highlighting the high prevalence of TBI in this population.
  • Older adults who experienced TBI during the study period (mean age at baseline 75 years) were more likely to be female and white, better educated, and cognitively normal (P (< .001), calling into question previous assumptions about risk factors.
  • This study highlighted the need for targeted interventions and research focused on TBI prevention and post-discharge care in older adults.

in fact:

“The number of people aged 65 and older with TBI is staggeringly high,” said lead author Raquel Gardner, MD, PhD. press release“We need evidence-based guidelines to inform post-discharge care for this very large population of Medicare beneficiaries, as well as further research on dementia prevention and reinjury prevention after TBI.”


The study was led by Dr. Erica Kornblith of the University of California, San Francisco. Publish online May 31, 2024, JAMA Network Open.


Because this study relied on ICD codes to identify TBI, it may not have encompassed the full range of TBI severity. Self-reported data on sociodemographic factors may have introduced bias, affecting the accuracy of associations with TBI incidence. Additionally, because this study focused on Medicare enrollees, people from different socioeconomic backgrounds may be excluded, limiting the generalizability of the results.


This research was funded by the Alzheimer's Association, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Institute on Aging, and the Department of Defense. Disclosures are available in the original study.

This article was created using multiple editorial tools, including AI as part of the process; a human editor reviewed this content before publishing.




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