Epidemiology of recurrent traumatic brain injury in the general population: A systematic review



To comprehensively assess recurrent traumatic brain injury (rTBI) risk and risk factors in the general population.


We systematically searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the references of included studies until January 16, 2017, for general population observational studies reporting rTBI risk or risk factors. Estimates were not meta-analyzed due to significant methodologic heterogeneity between studies, which was evaluated using meta-regression.


Twenty-two studies reported recurrence risk and 11 reported on 27 potential risk factors. rTBI risk was heterogeneous and varied from 0.43% (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.19%–0.67%) to 41.92% (95% CI 34.43%–49.40%), with varying follow-up periods (3 days–55 years). Median time to recurrence ranged from 0.5 to 3.8 years. In studies where cases were ascertained from multiple points of care, at least 5.50% (95% CI 4.80%–6.30%) of patients experienced a recurrence after a 1-year follow-up. Studies that used administrative data/self-report surveys to ascertain cases tended to report higher risk. Risk factors measured at time of index traumatic brain injury (TBI) that were significantly associated with rTBI in more than one study were male sex, prior TBI before index case, moderate or severe TBI, and alcohol intoxication. Risk factors reported in a single study that were significantly associated with rTBI were epilepsy, not seeking medical care, and multiple factors indicative of low socioeconomic status.


rTBI is an important contributor to the general population TBI burden. Certain risk factors can help identify individuals at higher risk of these repeated injuries. However, higher quality research that improves on rTBI surveillance methodology is needed.


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