Contrary to popular belief, even mild head injuries can cause long-term effects.
After a mild traumatic brain injury, 1 out of 5 patients went on to experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or major depressive disorder (MDD) within the next 6 months, according to a study published online in JAMA Psychiatry.
Among the participants’ mild traumatic brain injuries, 61.8% were caused by a motor vehicle accident, 29.2% were the result of a fall or other unintentional injury, 6.1% were caused by an assault, and 3% were from an unspecified cause.
Participants who suffered from a TBI were more likely to report PTSD or major depressive symptoms three and six months after injury. Indeed, researchers identified the disorders in 20% of patients with mild TBI 3 months after injury, and in 21.2% of patients 6 months after mild TBI. In comparison, the mental health disorders were present in 8.7% of patients with orthopaedic injuries alone 3 months after the injury, and in 12.1% of patients 6 months after an orthopaedic injury.
Additional risk factors
The researchers also found that having a mental health problem before a traumatic brain injury was “an exceptionally strong risk factor” for having PTSD or major depressive disorder afterwards.
Injuries caused by an assault were associated with increased risk of mental health problems.
Finally, individuals with a lower level of education, or belonging to a racial minority were at substantially increased risk of PTSD and/or MDD.
This is a good study for helping to predict who is at risk for depression and PTSD after a traumatic brain injury sustained in a car accident and to provide better diagnosis, screening and treatment.