-- Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, Feb. 13, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Head and neck
injuries may triple the odds that a young adult or child suffers
the leading form of stroke, new research suggests.
While strokes remain relatively rare in younger people, they do
occur, one expert said.
"Two thirds of strokes occur in people over the age of 65, but one third of strokes occur in those under the age of 65," said Dr. Richard Libman, chief of the division of vascular neurology at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Manhasset, N.Y.
"Many strokes occur in people in the prime of their lives, depriving them of quality of life, and depriving society of their contributions," added Libman, who was not involved in the new study. "More research is needed into the causes and appropriate treatments for young people with stroke."
In the study, researchers at the University of California, San
Francisco, analyzed the medical records of 1.3 million people
younger than 50 who were treated for head and neck injuries in
emergency trauma departments.
They found that 145 (or 11 of every 100,000) patients suffered
an ischemic stroke within four weeks of the injury. According to
the American Stroke Association, 87 percent of strokes are ischemic
strokes, which are caused by blocked blood flow in the brain.
The average age of patients with head and neck injuries who
suffered a stroke was 37, compared with 24 among those who didn't
have a stroke. About 48 in 100,000 young adults and 11 in 100,000
children with a head or neck injury later suffered a stroke, the
According to the study authors, about two million people are
treated in U.S. trauma departments for head and neck injuries each
month, which suggests a monthly rate of 214 younger adults and
children who suffer an ischemic stroke following such injuries.
The findings are slated for presentation Thursday at the
American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference in
"These findings are important because strokes after trauma might be preventable," lead author Dr. Christine Fox, assistant professor of neurology at UCSF, said in an ASA news release.
The links between head and neck injury and stroke aren't clear.
The authors note that such injuries can cause tears in blood
vessels that lead to the brain. These tears can lead to blood clots
that can trigger a stroke. If tears in these blood vessels can be
diagnosed at the time of the injury, patients could be given
anti-clotting drugs to prevent stroke, they said.
However, while 10 percent of the patients in this study had this
type of tear, not all of them were diagnosed with it before their
stroke, the investigators said.
Libman agreed that the "mechanism" linking injury and later
stroke "remains a mystery at this point."
Dr. Robert Glatter is director of sports medicine and traumatic
brain injury at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. He believes
that "the key take-home point from this study is that strokes that
occur after trauma to the head and neck may be preventable,
essentially by developing a greater awareness of this injury, along
with prompt attention to diagnosis and treatment."
"Although the absolute numbers of patients affected by a potential stroke seem small on a national level, the emotional, physical and financial costs are devastating, as the average age of patients suffering a stroke in this study was 37 years of age," Glatter said. "Prompt treatment ... may be lifesaving and reduce disability in the long run."
Findings presented at medical meetings are typically considered
preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about
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