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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Emergency Department Visits for Traumatic Brain Injury in Older Adults in the United States: 2006-08


Introduction: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be complicated among older adults due to age-related frailty, a greater prevalence of chronic conditions and the use of anticoagulants. We conducted this study using the latest available, nationally-representative emergency department (ED) data to characterize visits for TBI among older adults.

Methods: We used the 2006-2008 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care – Emergency Department (NHAMCS-ED) data to examine ED visits for TBI among older adults. Population-level estimates of triage immediacy, receipt of a head computed tomography (CT) and/or head magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and hospital admission by type were used to characterize 1,561 sample visits, stratified by age <65 and ≥65 years of age.

Results: Of ED visits made by persons ≥65 years of age, 29.1% required attention from a physician within 15 minutes of arrival; 82.1% required a head CT, and 20.9% required hospitalization. Persons≥65 years of age were 3 times more likely to receive a head CT or MRI compared to younger patients presenting with TBI (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 3.2; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.8-5.8), and were 4 times more likely to be admitted to an intensive care unit, step-down unit, or surgery (aOR 4.1; 95% CI 2.1-8.0) compared to younger patients presenting with TBI, while controlling for sex and race.

Conclusion: Results demonstrate increased emergent service delivery for older persons presenting with TBI. As the United States population ages and continues to grow, TBI will become an even more important public health issue that will place a greater demand on the healthcare system. [West J Emerg Med. 2012;13(3):289-293.]


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