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Old TBIs may cause memory loss, not Alzheimer's

In Iowa and across the U.S., many seniors as well as toddlers experience falls, which lead to traumatic brain injuries. Not a few of these older TBI victims develop memory loss as a result. Unfortunately, many doctors are quick to link memory loss with Alzheimer's disease, so these TBI patients are often misdiagnosed.

The reality, according to the Alzheimer's Association, is that some 40% of dementias are due to other conditions than Alzheimer's. A UCLA study has analyzed 40 TBI patients with memory loss to find a way to distinguish between Alzheimer's cases and TBI cases, and their results may be of interest to doctors because it involves MRIs. No special types of imaging are needed.

It turns out that old TBIs and Alzheimer's affect different regions of the brain more prominently than others. MRIs show that with the former, the ventral diencephalon (connected with learning and emotions) experiences the most atrophy while the hippocampus (connected with memory and emotions) experiences the least. With Alzheimer's, it is the hippocampus that incurs the most damage.

This is an important finding because TBIs affect millions of people. The CDC says 2.87 million Americans incurred them in 2014 with adults aged 75 and older seeing the highest rate.

Not only that, but the finding can help prevent TBI-related dementia patients from getting the wrong treatments. Unnecessary treatments mean unnecessary cost and avoidable injuries, which is why they often form part of a medical malpractice case. For such a case to be valid, there must be proof that doctor negligence was behind the misdiagnosis. Victims may want to hire a lawyer to gather this evidence and to assist with the other steps involved in filing a claim.

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