Traumatic Brain Injuries Linked to Intestinal Damage

hush-naidoo-382152-copy-300x200We often hear about the long-term risks of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in Poway and elsewhere in the San Diego area, such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), particularly among athletes in contact sports who have sustained multiple concussions. Can head injury risks lead to other types of physical injuries, as well? According to a recent article in Science Daily, a group of researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) have concluded that there is a “two-way link between traumatic brain injury and intestinal changes.” Those intestinal changes, in turn, resulted in more infections and in same cases “worsen[ed] chronic brain damage.”

To be clear, the new study suggests that brain trauma may be linked to additional physical injury. What do you need to know about the study’s conclusions?

Brain Damage Triggers Changes in the Colon

According to the study, TBI may “trigger delayed, long-term changes in the colon.” As a result, “subsequent bacterial infections in the gastrointestinal system can increase posttraumatic brain inflammation and associated tissue loss.” To put it another way, when a person suffers a TBI, she or he also experiences changes in the colon. As a result of those changes, the TBI victim’s body may be more susceptible to bacterial infections. When a person first suffers a TBI followed by a bacterial infection, the inflammation to the brain and general damage to the brain can get worse.

These findings appeared in the peer-reviewed journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. The study was conducted by a group of researchers in the UMSOM Departments of Anesthesiology, Anatomy and Neurobiology, Psychiatry, Neurology, and Neurosurgery.

Previously Known Links Between TBIs and Damage to the Gastrointestinal Tract

This is not the first study to look at the link between brain trauma and the gastrointestinal tract, but it is among the first to clearly indicate that there are in fact “strong two-way interactions between the brain and the gut that may help explain the increased incidence of systemic infections after brain trauma,” according to Alan Faden, the lead researcher in the study. As the article explains, researchers previously concluded that head trauma had an effect on the gastrointestinal tract. What, then, does this study find that others have not?

According to Faden and the other researchers, this study clarifies that “brain trauma can make the colon more permeable, potentially allowing harmful microbes to migrate from the intestine to other areas of the body, causing infection.” After a TBI, patients are at increased risk for blood poisoning (by about 12 times), and the study suggests why. Blood poisoning frequently results from increased bacteria, and the increased permeability of the colon could clarify why blood poisoning occurs so often in head trauma victims. In addition, TBI victims are also “2.5 times more likely to die of a digestive system problem.”

Researchers do not yet know why TBIs result in such profound changes in the colon, but the recent study does suggest clear causality. If you recently suffered a serious injury after sustaining a TBI, it may be linked to your head trauma. A Poway brain injury attorney can speak with you about your options. Contact the Walton Law Firm to learn more about how we can help.

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(image courtesy of Hush Naidoo)

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