Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Upmc Study Finds Uptick in Reports of Head Injuries

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Upmc Study Finds Uptick in Reports of Head Injuries

Article excerpt

In recent years, more young children and senior citizens have been showing up in emergency rooms with head injuries -- and according to one neurosurgeon, that's a good thing.

This upward trend in head injury diagnoses comes from a recently released study, funded by Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, which is slated to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study relies exclusively on data from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, which compiles information from emergency departments across the country.

The study indicates that in 2006, 1.7 percent of emergency room patients were diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury. By 2010, visits resulting in a brain injury diagnosis increased by 29 percent.

With patients under the age of 3 and over the age of 60 showing the greatest uptick in visits, researchers remain uncertain whether more toddlers and seniors are actually getting injured or whether this increase is due to more cautious parents and relatives.

Jennifer R. Marin, an emergency medicine physician at Children's Hospital and one of the authors of the study, said that further research needs to be done.

"Our findings just show this increase," Dr. Marin said. "We don't know how much of it is actual patients getting injured."

Micky Collins, a neurosurgeon and director of the UPMC sports medicine concussion program, said the public is more aware of head injuries than in past decades, which could lead some parents to bring their children to emergency rooms unnecessarily.

But when it comes to head injuries, Dr. Collins said it's better to err on the side of caution.

"There's a lot of risks," he said. "These are brain injuries, and it's something that needs to be managed very carefully. Kids may end up with cognitive issues, and their grades may suffer in school."

Dr. Collins said that people often think all concussions are the same. But in the same way that an orthopaedic doctor could diagnose more than 30 different knee injuries, there are many types of head injuries.

"A lot of these systems need rehabilitation," he said. …

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