Head and neck injuries may triple the odds that a young adult or child suffers the leading form of stroke, new research suggests.
While strokes remain relatively rare in younger people, they do occur, one expert said.
“Two thirds of strokes occur in people over the age of 65, but one third of strokes occur in those under the age of 65,” said Dr. Richard Libman, chief of the division of vascular neurology at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Manhasset, N.Y.
In the study, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, analyzed the medical records of 1.3 million people younger than 50 who were treated for head and neck injuries in emergency trauma departments.
They found that 145 (or 11 of every 100,000) patients suffered an ischemic stroke within four weeks of the injury. According to the American Stroke Association, 87 percent of strokes are ischemic strokes, which are caused by blocked blood flow in the brain.
“These findings are important because strokes after trauma might be preventable,” lead author Dr. Christine Fox, assistant professor of neurology at UCSF, said in an ASA news release.
Dr. Robert Glatter is director of sports medicine and traumatic brain injury at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. He believes that “the key take-home point from this study is that strokes that occur after trauma to the head and neck may be preventable, essentially by developing a greater awareness of this injury, along with prompt attention to diagnosis and treatment.”
“Although the absolute numbers of patients affected by a potential stroke seem small on a national level, the emotional, physical and financial costs are devastating, as the average age of patients suffering a stroke in this study was 37 years of age,” Glatter said. “Prompt treatment … may be lifesaving and reduce disability in the long run.”