Children who experience a brain injury are at greater risk of developing SADHD

Children who experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI) were at a higher risk of going on to develop secondary attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (SADHD). That is the finding of new research published by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre.

The study used a group of 187 children aged between three and seven, all of who had undergone a traumatic brain injury at some stage in their life. The parents of the children carried out assessments at regular intervals over the course of seven to ten years, which covered a range of elements including behavioural and emotional factors.

Previous studies into the connection between a TBI and SADHD had concentrated on the first two to three years following the injury, which disregarded children whose onset of SADHD came several years after.

The research found that 61.9 per cent of the children who had experienced a severe brain injury went on to develop secondary attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. In most cases this happened within the first 18 months, but for children who had undergone a complicated mild or moderate traumatic brain injury, there were a number of cases where SADHD did not develop until towards the end of the study.

Leading the research team, Megan E. Narad, PhD, said: “Our study is unique in that we followed children seven to ten years after their injury and demonstrated that some kids develop attention problems many years after injury.

“Of note, eight of the thirteen children (61.5 per cent) with severe TBI who developed SADHD did so within the first year after their injury, whereas three of six children (50 per cent) with moderate TBI and seven of thirteen (53.8 per cent) with complicated mild TBI who developed SADHD did so later than the first year after injury.”

Commenting on what the findings meant for children who have experienced a brain injury, Dr Narad said: “When counselling patients and their families, it would be important to discuss the potential for development of attention problems… and it is important to monitor periodically for these risk factors.”

The team’s study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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