Alzheimer’s Disease

Dementia has been observed to follow a single injury to the head. Repeated blows to the head have been associated with boxers (dementia pugilistica).

While there are no studies we’ve been able to find on chiropractic and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) we have found a number of papers from medical journals dealing with the relationship between head trauma, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The majority of the studies do find an association between head injuries and AD. Some are included below.

A further comment or two: Can we conclude that spinal and/or cranial care of a child or adult who has had a head trauma may prevent the development of AD and dementia later in life? The possibility exists. In none of the below studies cited were any of the head trauma victims asked if they had chiropractic, cranio-sacral, osteopathic or other forms of structural care after their injuries. Sine the papers are from medical journals, non-medical care is ignored as if it does not exist. That is a weakness of all the medical studies reviewed.

Documented head injury in early adulthood and risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Plassman BL, Havlik RJ, Steffens DC et al Neurology 2000;55:1158-1166

Researchers from the US National Institute on Aging and Duke University reviewed the records of Navy and Marine World War 11 veterans who were hospitalized for a nonpenetrating head injury or other unrelated condition. In 1996 and 1997 the men were evaluated for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Both moderate and severe head injury was associated with increased risk of AD. Results were also similar for dementia. The results for mild head injury were inconclusive.

There is apparently a strong correlation between head injuries as a young adult and the development of AD and other dementias later in life.

The authors of the study have no idea how the injury leads to the neurological deficit later in life, but draw a direct correlation to the severity of the injury and likelihood that the patient eventually will be diagnosed with the illness. Those that had experienced a loss of consciousness or amnesia for less than 24 hours after the injury were twice as likely as the general population to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. For those that lasted 24 or more hours, the risk quadrupled. The study involved over 1,700 veterans; the time between the injury and the development of Alzheimer’s disease was about 50 years.

Because of the records involved, recall bias may not be as much a factor as in earlier studies.

Head trauma and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Van Duijn CM, Tanja TA, Haaxima R et al. American Journal of Epidemiology 1992;135:775-82.

This is a population-based case-control study of the association between head trauma and Alzheimer’s disease from the Netherlands. Head trauma, ten years prior to the onset of dementia was analyzed in 198 patients with clinically diagnosed early onset Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and 198 controls.

The authors’ findings buttress other findings that head trauma may be implicated in AD with a short time lag between the head trauma and the first symptoms of disease.

Head trauma with loss of consciousness as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Chandra V, Kokmen E, Schoenberg BS, Beard CM. Neurology 1989;39:1576-1578.

All cases of clinically diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease (AD) from the population of Rochester, MD from 1965-1974 were identified. 274 case-controlled pairs were studied. A relationship between head trauma and loss of consciousness was not able to be statistically identified. The author’s acknowledge that the possibility of recall bias may have impaired the validity of this study.

The association between head trauma and Alzheimer’s disease. Graves AB, White E, Koepsell TD et al American J of Epidemiology 1990;131:491-501.

This is a case-controlled study of 130 matched pairs. Cases of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) were clinically diagnosed at two geriatric psychiatry clinics. Head injuries causing loss of consciousness or causing the patient to seek medical care were recorded (24% of the AD cases and 8.5% in the controls).

As the authors write in their abstract: “This is the third case-control study to find a statistically significant association between head trauma and AD.

Copyright 2004 Koren Publications, Inc. & Tedd Koren, D.C.

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