Military and Veterans Affairs
Among 266 primarily male participants (93%) with severe TBI (71%) and a median age of 31, the number of comorbidities did not differ between mild TBI versus those with moderate to severe TBI. However, sleep apnea was more prevalent in mild TBI. Further research is needed to understand the relationship between TBI severity and sleep apnea.
Objective : Examine the difference in medical comorbidities by severity of traumatic brain injury.
Design : Longitudinal Cohort Study
Setting : A VA Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center
Participants (or Animals, Specimens, Cadavers) : VA TBI Model System participants with a 2-year follow up interview (N =266) were primarily male (93%), white (73%), with a median age of 31 [IQR 25-50] with predominantly severe TBI (71%).
Interventions : Not applicable
Main Outcome Measure(s) : National Health/Nutrition Survey Medical Comorbidities administered at two-years post-TBI.
Results : Most participants had at least one medical comorbidity (77%). The most common were chronic pain (47%), fractures (29%), sleep apnea (26%), and hypertension (25%). Chi-square was analyses revealed no difference in the number of comorbidities experienced between participants with mild versus moderate-to-severe TBI (p=.352). Participants with mild TBI were more likely to have sleep apnea (41%) than those with moderate to severe TBI (20%; p=.007). There was no difference in duration of illness between severity groups (p=.803). There were no differences between participants with mild and moderate-to-severe injuries on other comorbid conditions diagnosed at two-years post-TBI.
Conclusions : Consistent with previous research, this study demonstrates the high prevalence of medical comorbidities following TBI in Veterans and Service Members. With the exception of sleep apnea, the current findings suggest that TBI severity does not influence the rate of medical comorbidities reported at two-year’s post TBI. Given the particularly high rates of sleep apnea among those with mild TBI found in this study and the known negative impacts of sleep apnea, screening for sleep apnea in those with even mild TBI is important. Future research should further examine the relationship between TBI severity and comorbid sleep disorders.