5 Startling facts about women’s traumatic brain injury

In honor of national women’s health week:

Women’s traumatic brain injury can be more severe than in men despite less overall incidence. 

Traumatic brain injury is more common in men since men are more likely to engage in riskier behaviors like not wearing seat belts, playing contact sports and engage in combat. However, in a woman with a traumatic brain injury,  the prognosis and severity of injury in women is worse than in men. These include a higher mortality rate as well as increased likelihood of  a severe disability or permanent vegetative state.

Here are a few reasons why…

Women's traumatic brain injury

1 . Women have on average smaller skulls. 

Women which are on average smaller than males also exhibit smaller bone structures such as skull size.

2. Injuries in women cause more intense swelling than in men.

Swelling is biological driven by female hormones. This response is usually related to child bearing years and changes in pregnancy. Swelling in response to brain injury is also more severe as a result in woman than in men. This effects is substantial in pre menopausal women and is hormone related.

3. Women have higher inter cranial pressure after injury.

Due to the smaller size of a woman’s skull and the higher magnitude of swelling, the inter cranial pressure after injury in women causes an increased risk of mortality.

4. Women have superior verbal skills which may mask performance deficits.

At discharge from a medical setting, practitioner’s often require basic ambulation and communication. While women after a traumatic brain injury may be able to communicate better with healthcare workers,  many other symptoms may go undiagnosed. Performance deficits requiring higher cognitive abilities may be affected and go untreated.

5. Women’s brains areas are very interconnected.

It is often said that women use both hemisphere of the brain for many tasks allowing multitasking and keeping more information online. As a result, a focal injury may cause wider ranging deficits, which may go undiagnosed. In contrast, men’s brains are less interconnected and have many local functions. Therefore a specific focal injury may cause only very specific deficit depending on its location.

 

Inspired by a talk by Dr. Anat Bigeon

with facts from: Do Women Fare Worse? A Metaanalysis of Gender Differences in Outcome After Traumatic Brain Injury Elana Farace, Ph.D., Wayne M. Alves, Ph.D., Department of Neurosurgery, University of Virginia; and INC Research, Charlottesville, Virginia Neurosurg Focus. 2000;8(1)

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