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A new study examines an older conversation about whether hits to the head could trigger epilepsy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a common and deadly problem in this country.  Approximately 153 people each day die from brain-related injuries.  Brain injury also occurs in medical settings, when anesthesia, medication, or surgical mistakes deprive the brain of oxygen, causing lasting damage.

During a traumatic brain injury, the brain can suffer direct trauma when forces move it within its protective skull.  Diffuse axonal injury occurs when white matter is sheared and stretched, while hemorrhages and contusions occur when the brain hits the bony skull and swells.  Acquired epileptic seizures are associated with the aftermath of traumatic brain injury.

In this study from Virginia Tech Polytechnic Institute and State University, researchers located a cell response that occurred in the brain after concussion-like injury.  The mouse study provides a new model that could allow scientists to better understand how and why epileptic seizures can occur after a brain injury.  Here are some of the findings:

  • After a traumatic brain injury, the number of astrocytes in an injured brain area increase. Astrocytes are star-shaped brain cells that have a big role in maintaining the stable functioning of the central nervous system.  This rapid increase of astrocytes is called astrogliosis.
  • The presence of astrogliosis impairs the ability of other astrocytes in the area to do their normal maintenance work. Yet, astrogliosis helps limit the spread and duration of inflammatory cells, thus working to repair the injured area and reduce the size of the potential area of damage.  Astrogliosis can result in scarring in the area.
  • The astrocytes that form scars are associated with the presentation of post-traumatic epileptic seizures.

Researchers identify astrogliosis in the hippocampus and cerebral cortex as an event that may trigger occurrence of post-injury seizures.  While more study is needed, this work offers a glimpse into the cause of seizures that continue to plague TBI patients long after their injury.

How does this help?  Understanding some of the mechanism behind TBI-related epilepsy may help healthcare providers understand which patients may be at greater risk for post-injury seizure.  Monitoring and awareness of the likelihood of seizure could give patients a better sense of control of their condition, and provide proactive care if seizures do occur.

If you suffer brain injury as a result of the negligence of others, speak with an experienced injury attorney for legal guidance.

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