Problem/Condition: Data indicate that approximately 50,000 U.S. residents die as a result of traumatic brain injury (TBI) annually. Survivors of TBI are often left with neuropsychologic impairments that result in disabilities affecting work or social activity. During 1979–1992, TBI-related death rates declined 22%, from 24.6 to 19.3 deaths/100,000 population. This report describes the epidemiology and trends in TBI-related mortality during 1989–1998.
Reporting Period: January 1, 1989–December 31, 1998.
Description of Systems: The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) Multiple Cause of Death public use data were analyzed for this study.
Results: During 1989–1998, an annual average of 53,288 deaths (range: 51,848–54,501) among U.S. residents were associated with TBI. TBI-related death rates declined 11.4%, from 21.9 to 19.4/100,000 population. The major causes of TBI-related deaths were firearm-related (40%), motor-vehicle–related (34%), and fall-related (10%). The leading causes of TBI-related deaths differed among age groups. Among youths aged 0–19 years, motor-vehicle–related TBIs were the leading cause; among persons aged 20–74 years, firearm-related TBIs were the leading cause; and among persons aged >75 years, fall-related TBIs were the leading cause. Comparing rates in 1989 with rates in 1998, motor-vehicle–related causes declined by 22%; the majority of this decline occurred during the first 5 years of the period. During 1989–1998, firearm-related TBI-related deaths declined by 14%; approximately all of this decline occurred during the last 5 years of the period. In contrast, fall-related TBI-related death rates increased by 25% during the period.
Conclusion: This analysis of mortality data identifies recent trends in TBI-related deaths occurring during 1989–1998. Fall-related TBI death rates have increased throughout the period. Firearm-related TBI death rates, which were increasing in the early 1990s, declined. Motor-vehicle–related TBI death rates, which were decreasing until the mid-1990s, have since demonstrated only a limited change.
Public Health Action: More current population-based epidemiologic studies of TBI are needed to assess recent trends of etiologic factors, provide additional guidance for public policy, and evaluate prevention strategies. Despite the decline in fatal TBI incidence, TBI morbidity and mortality remains a public health challenge. Public health, law enforcement, and transportation safety professionals can address these challenges by implementing effective interventions based on a thorough assessment of the factors that influence health-related behaviors.