“Worldwide, more  than 50 million people have a traumatic brain injury (TBI) each year, and it is estimated that about half the world’s population will have one or more TBIs over their lifetime.” 

The Lancet Neurology

More than 80% of these brain injuries occur in the developing world.  It costs an an estimated $US 400 billion annually to treat patients and deal with the economic consequences of traumatic brain injury. These startling figures come from a consensus statement on TBI published in The Lancet Neurology on 6 November 2017.

A crowd of Lego figures conveying the idea of millions of people suffering traumatic brain injury

Ultimately, the human cost is far greater than the financial cost. Life changes irrevocably after a severe TBI. The ripple effects spread into the person’s family, into their workplace or school, and into their neighbourhood.

Changing Patterns of Traumatic Brain Injury

Injury patterns are changing too. In rich countries, the number of people sustaining TBI due to falls has increased. In poor countries, motor vehicle accidents cause an ever increasing number of traumatic brain injuries.

Inadequate Treatment

Despite the massive numbers of people suffering traumatic brain injury each year, our treatment protocols are simplistic. The tools we use to grade brain injury severity, such as the venerable Glasgow Coma Scale, are reliable but outdated. We don’t routinely use biomarkers, despite great progress in that area. Amazing innovative treatments don’t get the recognition they should.

The research that underpins the evidence for guidelines for medical, surgical, and rehabilitation
interventions for TBI patients is inadequate. In developing countries, most of Africa especially Sub-Saharan Africa, good quality guidelines for TBI management await development.

Diagnostic methods and classification of patients with TBI do not yet allow us to precisely target treatment to the needs of individual patients. Personalised treatment tailored to each unique patient remains a dream. We need to do a lot more work.

So, let’s all slow down and drive carefully, look before we walk, and damp down our irritable feelings. The world will be a safer place.


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