Traumatic brain injury raises epilepsy risk

By Tom Nordlie • Published: June 10th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Sustaining head trauma is a terrible experience.

What’s worse is that the recovery may not be as complete as it appears.

According to a study published in the medical journal The Lancet, head trauma raises the risk of developing epilepsy for years after the initial injury.

Epilepsy is a chronic disorder involving repeated, unexpected seizures.

It affects about fifty-million people worldwide. Epilepsy can be caused by several factors, including head trauma, genetic conditions, tumors and infections.

In the study, researchers examined health records from one-point-six million Danish young people. Almost eighty-thousand of them suffered head trauma at least once.

The results showed the risk of epilepsy was doubled for those who’d suffered a mild brain injury or skull fracture.

After a severe brain injury, it increased sevenfold.

The researchers also looked at time elapsed after the trauma.

With brain injuries, the risk of developing epilepsy was highest during the first year afterward but remained elevated for at least ten years.

With skull fractures, the risk remained steady over the years.

Age was a factor as well. The risk of epilepsy was higher for those who were at least fifteen at the time of the trauma.

The bad news is, there’s currently no treatment to prevent epilepsy.

But these data suggest that if preventive measures come along, there may be a big window of opportunity to employ them.

So for now, recovering victims of head trauma will have to hope for research breakthroughs, and hope that epilepsy isn’t in their future.