Background: Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) remain an important public health problem in developed countries. Hospital records were reviewed to ascertain the epidemiology of TBIs in Northeast Italy.
Methods: The annual rates of TBI-associated hospitalisation were estimated by analysing data collected from hospital records from 1996 to 2000. TBIs were identified according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention definition and the ICDMAP-90 was used to assess their severity.
Findings: 55,368 TBIs were collected between 1996 and 2000, with an overall 29.4% decline in the number of cases. As for severity, moderate TBIs dropped by 34.1%, whereas a less conspicuous decline was observed for mild injuries. Severe injuries remained stable between 1996 and 1999, but rose in 2000, when the unclassified injuries were better distributed. Concerning outcome, fatal TBIs dropped slightly, but only in 2000. Causes of TBI were recorded in 59.2% of cases: 48.5% were motor vehicle accidents, 8.8% occurred at work and 12.2% at home. There were more males than females in all age groups. The highest number of cases per 100,000 person of motor vehicle accidents was recorded among 16-25 year-old and 36.5% occurred at weekends. Domestic accidents showed two age peaks, in children and the elderly. Occupational accidents occurred at all working ages, tending to decline with older age.
Interpretation: Better health care and educational campaigns may have contributed to the declining rate of TBI-associated hospitalisation. Special efforts should be made to further reduce the motor vehicle accidents involving young people and welfare programs are needed to limit the risk of falls and contain functional impairment in the elderly.