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Coping with an Aging, Brain-Injury Prone Population

More Brain Injuries, Fewer Neurosurgeons

How common are certain types of brain traumas, and is it difficult to find a medical specialist who can properly treat the injury? According to an article in Forbes magazine, by the year 2030, the most common brain injury among adults will be chronic subdural hemorrhage (SDH), but fewer neurosurgeons are likely to exist to treat the condition.

Indeed, a study conducted by researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center has projected a “shortage of neurosurgeons to handle the increased number of patients expected to be diagnosed from this condition, typically the result of falls and other trauma.”

Certain types of patients are at greater risk of chronic subdural hemorrhage than others. For example, SDHs are “more common in the older population due to greater atrophy of the brain, increased use of blood-thinning medications, and atrophy of the blood vessels located on the brain surface.” This condition is also more prevalent among patients who have a history of alcoholism or alcohol abuse, given that alcohol increases a person’s risk for bleeding. In addition, those same people often “sustain multiple falls,” which are a known cause of SDHs.

Learning More About Subdural Hematomas

What do you need to know about chronic subdural hematomas? What do neurosurgeons mean when they diagnose someone with a chronic subdural hematoma? According to the Mayo Clinic,

a subdural hematoma happens when “blood vessels—usually veins—rupture between your brain and the outermost of three membrane layers that cover your brain.” When such a rupture occurs, “the leaking blood forms a hematoma that compresses brain tissue.”

Three different types of subdural hematomas exist, including:

  • Acute subdural hematoma: this is the most dangerous type of subdural hematoma, and it is usually the result of a severe injury. With an acute subdural hematoma, signs and symptoms “usually appear immediately.”
  • Sub-acute subdural hematoma: this type of hematoma often does not produce symptoms until “days or weeks after your injury.”
  • Chronic subdural hematoma: this type of hematoma is less severe than the other two, and it causes bleeding at a slower pace. Typically, symptoms “take weeks to appear,” and patients “might not recall” sustaining the initial injury.

The Results of the Study:

In the most recent study, the researchers took into account a number of different factors, including age, gender, and alcohol consumption. The high number of SDHs predicted by the year 2030 coincide with growing elderly population in the US. By that same year, our country will have more elderly residents than ever before.

The researchers predict that by the year 2030, about 25 percent of the population in the US will consist of citizens over the age of 65. At that time, “the incidence of chronic SDH will reach nearly 121.4 cases per 100,000 people in the VA population and 17.6 cases per 100,000 people in the general U.S. population.”

The solution to preventing the possibility of not having enough neurosurgeons to treat the aging population is still being debated. In the meantime, increased awareness of the causes of subdural hematomasmay help reduce the number of incidents of these injuries.

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