Falls account for more than half of all patients attending Cork University Hospital with traumatic brain injuries, while four in every 10 cases involve some level of alcohol, according to new medical research.
A study of all patients attending the intensive care unit at CUH between 2013 and 2018 with a serious brain injury found 51.3% of cases resulted from some sort of fall.
The research, published in the latest edition of the, found 22.1% of such patients died while in ICU.
The largest single cause of traumatic brain injury in the 222 cases examined was a fall from a height of less than 2m, which accounted for 29.7% of the total.
Road traffic collisions were responsible for 26.1% of cases, with falls from a height in excess of two metres accounting for a further 21.6%.
About one in eight patients (12.2%) suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of an assault, while 7.7% incurred the injury while engaged in some type of recreation or sport.
Researchers from CUH and University College Cork found "alcohol involvement" was reported in 41.4% of cases.
They found alcohol played a role in a majority of all traumatic brain injuries suffered as a result of both assaults and falls from a height under 2m but was only a factor in 24.1% of road traffic accidents.
The study revealed three-quarters of all patients required some form of neurological procedure, while the average length of time spent in ICU following hospitalisation for a traumatic brain injury was 8.4 days.
One of the report’s main authors, Dr Clara Forrest, said traumatic brain injury was a significant cause of premature mortality and life-long disability.
Dr Forrest said understanding the age profile of such patients was important as older age is a well-established, independent predictor of worse outcomes.
Despite an increasing average age in recent years, she said traumatic brain injury “remains an injury primarily of the young”, with almost one in three patients in the 19-35 age group.
Dr Forrest said this trend also has societal consequences because of years lost to death and disability and preventative measures should focus on the 19-35 age cohort.
Over three-quarters of all the patients with a serious brain injury were male, while the median age was 46 years.
However, the 15-39 years age group accounted for the highest percentage of injuries overall as well as in each individual year.
Dr Forrest said falls will become a greater problem as the Irish population ages.
“Increasing public awareness about the risk of serious brain injury from a fall, even from low heights, should be prioritised,” she said.