According to a recent study published in the journal Radiology, patients who have suffered mild traumatic brain injuries exhibit damage to the brain that is similar to patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The study provides yet more proof that even mild head injuries can lead to more serious complications than previously believed.
Experts estimate that approximately 1.7 million people in the U.S. suffer some form of traumatic brain injury each year. The vast majority of these injuries are ones that would not be immediately classified as severe. Most occur when someone hits his head in a car accident or when attempting a household repair. Nevertheless, about 15 percent of these patients suffer long-term neurological symptoms.
The authors of the study found that many traumatic brain injury patients suffer similar symptoms to those with Alzheimer’s disease. Specifically, sleep walking, difficulty concentrating on important sounds such as speech and memory problems have been observed in patients with these conditions.
To determine whether these symptoms were caused by similar injuries to brain structures, researchers examined the findings of magnetic resonance imaging exams of 64 traumatic brain injury patients. They discovered that the initial injury was not, in fact, the problem. Rather, it was the brain’s reaction to the injury.
It seems that a mild concussion triggers certain degenerative changes in a person’s brain. These degenerative changes, which may be part of the brain’s attempt to heal itself, are similar to those observed in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The findings of this study are still preliminary, but knowing how the brain works in these situations may lead to important new treatments.
Source: Medical Xpress, “Concussion patients show Alzheimer’s-like brain abnormalities,” June 18, 2013