Traumatic brain injury in the Netherlands, trends in emergency department visits, hospitalization and mortality between 1998 and 2012

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Abstract

Background

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. The effects of epidemiological changes such as ageing of the population and increased traffic safety on the incidence of TBI are unknown.

Objective

The objective of this study was to evaluate trends in TBI-related emergency department (ED) visits, hospitalization and mortality in the Netherlands between 1998 and 2012.

Design

This was a retrospective observational, longitudinal study.

Main outcome measures

The main outcome measures were TBI-related ED visits, hospitalization and mortality.

Results

Between 1998 and 2012, there were 500 000 TBI-related ED visits in the Netherlands. In the same period, there were 222 000 TBI-related admissions and 17 000 TBI-related deaths. During this period, there was a 75% increase in ED visits for TBI and a 95% increase for TBI-related hospitalization; overall mortality because of TBI did not change significantly. Despite the overall increase in TBI-related ED visits, this increase was not evenly distributed among age groups or trauma mechanisms. In patients younger than 65 years, a declining trend in ED visits for TBI caused by road traffic accidents was observed. Among patients 65 years or older, ED visits for TBI caused by a fall increased markedly. TBI-related mortality shifted from mainly young (67%) and middle-aged individuals (<65 years) to mainly elderly (63%) individuals (≥65 years) between 1998 and 2012. The conclusions of this study did not change when adjusting for changes in age, sex and overall population growth.

Conclusion

The incidence of TBI-related ED visits and hospitalization increased markedly between 1998 and 2012 in the Netherlands. TBI-related mortality occurred at an older age. These observations are probably the result of a change in aetiology of TBI, specifically a decrease in traffic accidents and an increase in falls in the ageing population. This hypothesis is supported by our data. However, ageing of the population is not the only cause of the changes observed; the observed changes remained significant when correcting for age and sex. The higher incidence of TBI with a relatively stable mortality rate highlights the importance of clinical decision rules to identify patients with a high risk of poor outcome after TBI.

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