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August 26th Press Release from EurekAlert:

GALVESTON – Traumatic brain injury, currently considered a singular event by the insurance industry and many health care providers, is instead the beginning of an ongoing process that impacts multiple organ systems and may cause or accelerate other diseases and disorders that can reduce life expectancy, according to research from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

As such, traumatic brain injury should be defined and managed as a chronic disease to ensure that patients receive appropriate care and that future research is directed at discovering therapies that may interrupt the disease processes months or even years after the initiating injury, say co-authors Dr. Brent Masel, a clinical associate professor in UTMB's department of neurology and Dr. Douglas DeWitt, director of the Moody Center for Traumatic Brain & Spinal Cord Injury Research/Mission Connect and professor in the department of anesthesiology. Masel also serves as president and director of the Transitional Learning Center in Galveston, which for more than 25 years has provided survivors of brain injury with the special rehabilitation services they need to re-enter the community.

The literature review, which appears in the current issue of The Journal of Neurotrauma, examines 25 years of research on the effects of brain injury, including its impact on the central nervous system and on cognitive and motor functions.

Traumatic brain injury occurs when a sudden trauma causes damage to the brain and can be classified as mild, moderate or severe, depending on the extent of the damage. While many patients recover completely, more than 90,000 become disabled each year in the U.S. alone. It is estimated that more than 3.5 million Americans are presently disabled by brain injuries – suffering lifelong conditions as a result.

"Traumatic brain injury fits the World Health Organization's definition of a chronic disease, yet the U.S. health care system generally views it as a one-time injury that heals the way a broken bone does," says Masel. "Only by reimbursing and managing brain injuries on par with other chronic diseases will patients get the long-term treatment and support they need and deserve."

The researchers add that re-classifying traumatic brain injury as a chronic disease may help to provide brain injury researchers with the additional funding required to investigate a potential cure.

Read the whole press release.

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