Traumatic brain injury (TBI) has become a serious public health problem in New Hampshire, with incidents skyrocketing in the past 10 years, according to a report released last month by the state Department of Health and Human Services.
The report was done by the state health department’s Injury Surveillance Program in conjunction with the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire.
“Each year, traumatic brain injuries contribute to a substantial number of deaths and cases of permanent disability,” Public Health Director Dr. José Montero said in a press release. “Traumatic brain injury can be prevented, in many cases, by wearing seat belts when driving, wearing helmets on motorcycles and bicycles, wearing proper safety equipment during sports, and preventing falls.”
During 2009, 13,546 people sustained a TBI in New Hampshire, according to the report. Among those injured, 171 died where TBI was reported as a cause of death on the death certificate alone or in combination with other injuries or conditions.
Another 1,069 were hospitalized with a TBI alone or in combination with other injuries or conditions.
An additional 12,306 were treated and released from emergency departments with a TBI alone or with other injuries or conditions, nearly twice the figure of 6,514 in 2001, the report found . An unknown number of individuals sustained injuries that were treated in other settings or went untreated.
“The number of deaths, inpatient hospitalizations, and emergency department discharges from TBI has increased from 2001 to 2009,” the report said. “There are several explanations that may account for this increase. For example, increased understanding of the severity of concussion may lead to more patients seeking treatment after a blow to the head. It is important to note that the number of people with TBI who are not seen in an emergency department or who do not seek medical care is unknown.”
The highest number of TBI-related deaths were among persons 45 to 54 years of age, while those 14 and younger made the most TBI-related emergency department visits.
“Males in the state are more likely to die, become hospitalized, and visit an emergency department from TBI than are their female counterparts,” according to the report.
TBI is under-reported public health issue, according to New Hampshire officials.
“No brain injuries are alike and the consequence of two similar injuries may be very different,” said Steve Wade, executive director of the state’s Brain Injury Association.
“Traumatic brain injuries can cause many different types of changes to the way a person thinks and understands the world around him,” Wade said. “They can affect senses such as touch, taste, and smell. A traumatic brain injury may interfere with communication and the expression of one’s thoughts. And it may also result in social inappropriateness, depression, anxiety, personality changes, aggression, and acting out. Additionally, changes in attention and concentration, memory, and executive functioning are all hallmarks of traumatic brain injury.”
And TBIs take a financial, as well as personal, toll, the report said.
“Traumatic brain injuries are very costly,” according to the report. “Direct medical costs and indirect costs such as lost productivity, due to TBI totaled an estimated $60 billion in the United States in 2000. In New Hampshire, the cost of fatalities due to TBI on average in years 2000-2004 was estimated at an aggregate cost of $568,031,000. Each fatality due to TBI during those years cost an estimated $3,242,186. This takes into account the medical costs, lost productivity, and quality of life costs.”
In New Hampshire the total aggregate cost was $368,803,522 for hospitalizations due to TBI in 2003, according to the report. Each hospitalization in 2003 due to TBI cost an estimated, $701,278, taking into account medical costs, lost productivity, and quality of life.
You can find the the complete report at http://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/bchs/mch/injury.htm and click on Traumatic Brain Injury: Occurrence and Mortality in New Hampshire, 2001-2009.