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Government Builds Brain Injury Scan Database

August 31, 2011
Written by: , Filed in: Neuroradiology
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An unpredictable, often tragic injury, thrust into the spotlight by the wars of the past decade, is getting some government attention.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), partnering with the Department of Defense, announced Monday that it will build a central database of brain scans and other information on traumatic brain injuries (TBI). According to an NIH news release, “It will serve as a central repository for new data, link to current databases, and allow valid comparison of results across studies.”

The government will give the Federal Interagency Traumatic Brain Injury Research database $10 million in funding over four years.

The data will include brain imaging scans (an illustration of CT scans of six different types of TBI accompanies the NIH release) and neurological test results, all obtained with informed consent and stripped of patient-identifying information.

Walter Koroshetz, MD, emphasized the database’s value for studies of TBI:

There are many traumatic brain injury studies whose value to scientific research and clinical care could be greatly enhanced by transforming the data into a common, easily available format.

Dr. Koroshetz, a neurologist, is deputy director of the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. He was quoted in the NIH news release.

According to the NIH, about 1.7 million people each year in the United States sustain TBI from auto accidents, falls, and other misfortunes. That’s more than one half of 1 percent of the population annually.

In addition, the Defense Department says that over the past 12 years, more than 200,000 American servicemen and -women have been diagnosed with TBI. TBI as a result of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan—and controversies regarding the military’s diagnosis and treatment of TBI—have received widespread media coverage.

Concussions and other brain injuries among athletes have also been getting increased attention. Former Chicago Bears pro football star Dave Duerson committed suicide earlier this year after complaining of a deteriorating mental state during his final months. An examination of his brain showed he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease associated with head injury.

The NIH said total annual costs of TBI in the United States, including medical care, lost wages, and other expenses, exceed $60 billion. The cost in pain and suffering for those afflicted with TBI and for their loved ones is incalculable.

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