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Brain Injuries Can Cause Seizures Many Years Later

Miami brain injury attorneys know that brain injuries can have long-lasting effects, but a new study reports that brain injury victims can develop seizures decades after the initial injury.

The study was published this month in the journal Neurology. It followed a group of 199 Vietnam veterans who suffered brain injuries. Thirteen percent of the participants developed post-traumatic epilepsy more than 14 years after their initial injury. The brain injuries in the study were penetrating head wounds, such as gunshots or shrapnel that entered brain tissue.

Penetrating head injuries have higher rates of developing epilepsy than other types of head injuries such as concussions.

The overall rate of post-traumatic epilepsy was around…

44, which was consistent with findings in other military groups.

The study, called the Vietnam Head Injury Study, was coauthored by Jordan Grafman, chief of the Cognitive Neuroscience Section of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Maryland. Grafman says it is not clear what triggers seizures so many years after a penetrating head injury. “There are all sorts of things that can contribute to a [late-onset] seizure, including sleep deprivation, excessive drinking and other kinds of illnesses,” Grafman said.

Soldiers who retained pieces of metal in their brains were at greater risk of developing seizures, as were those solders who had larger brain lesions.

The study investigated whether there was a link between the risk of seizures and a gene that is known to affect neuronal plasticity, which is the ease with which brain cells can repair or change their patterns of connection. The study could not find any association. Grafman does not rule out genetics, though. “We all recover from brain injuries differently, and we may find that in some cases those differences are genetic.”

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