From the Journals

Race/ethnicity, other factors predict PTSD and depression after mild TBI



Civilian patients with mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) who are black, have psychiatric history or lower education, or whose injury was caused by assault might be at greater risk of developing posttraumatic stress disorder or major depression, a longitudinal study suggests.

An image of brain trauma Stockdevil/Thinkstock

“Our findings may have implications for surveillance and treatment of mental disorders after TBI,” wrote Murray B. Stein, MD, MPH, and his associates. The study was published Jan. 30 in JAMA Psychiatry.

The researchers looked at the risk factors for and prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder among 1,155 patients. The patients were enrolled at 11 level 1 trauma centers across the United States after they were evaluated for mild TBI in emergency departments as part of a prospective study called Transforming Research and Clinical Knowledge in Traumatic Brain Injury, or TRACK-TBI. The comparison group was 230 patients with nonhead orthopedic trauma injuries, wrote Dr. Stein, distinguished professor of psychiatry and family medicine and public health at the University of California, San Diego, and his associates.

They found that each additional year of education was associated with a significant 11% reduction in the risk of developing PTSD after mild TBI (P = .005). Also, black patients had a greater than fivefold higher risk of PTSD (P less than.001) than that of individuals who were not black.

Among patients with a history of mental illness and those who had experienced their injury as a result of assault or violence – as opposed to a motor vehicle accident or fall, for example – both had a greater than threefold higher risk of developing PTSD (odds ratio, 3.57 and 3.43 respectively). A prior TBI was nonsignificantly associated with an increased risk of developing PTSD.

Lower education duration, being black, or a history of mental illness also were all significantly associated with an increased risk of developing major depressive disorder after mild TBI.

However, duration of lost consciousness or posttraumatic amnesia, evidence of brain injury on CT, or hospitalization did not predict an increased risk of PTSD or major depression.

“Although MDD and PTSD are prevalent after TBI, little is known about which patients are at risk for developing them,” Dr. Stein and his associates wrote.

Noting that having a prior mental health problem was an “exceptionally strong” risk factor for PTSD and MDD after TBI, the authors said this could represent continuation or exacerbation of the prior mental health issue, or the triggering of a new episode in a person with a past history who had recovered.

“However, in either case this finding underscores the importance of clinicians being aware of the mental health history of their patients with [mild TBI], as this information is central to expectations regarding both short-term and long-term outcome,” they wrote.

Dr. Stein and his associates cited as a limitation their reliance on patient or family report. In addition, they said, the elevated risk for mental disorders among black individuals after mild TBI, which was independent of socioeconomic status or cause of injury, was not understood. “Unmeasured covariates may be part of the explanation; this is a topic needing further study,” they wrote.

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Defense, Abbott Laboratories, and One Mind. Four authors declared consultancies, advisory board positions, speaking fees, and shares or stock options with the pharmaceutical and private industry. Two authors declared grants from the study sponsors.

SOURCE: Stein MB et al. JAMA Psychiatry. 2019. Jan 30. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.4288.

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