Head injury and the risk of Alzheimer's disease: a case control study

Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 1997 Mar;12(3):363-8. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1099-1166(199703)12:3<363::aid-gps515>3.0.co;2-f.


Objectives: The objective of this study is to examine the association between Alzheimer's disease and head injury in elderly patients referred to an EMI unit.

Method: An unmatched case control study comparing 198 cases of Alzheimer's disease (NINCDS-ADRDA diagnostic criteria) to selected controls (164 other dementias and 176 non-dementing group) with respect to history of head trauma, with or without loss of consciousness, prior to the onset of dementia.

Setting: EMI unit in Warrington serving an elderly population of 28,000. The subjects included all patients referred to and seen by the first author during a 2-year study period 1991-1993.

Main outcome measure: Relative risk (odds ratio) of Alzheimer's disease.

Results: For having history of head injury, the odds ratio was 1.52 (0.98-2.35), significant only in male patients (OR 2.1 p < 0.05). For dementias other than Alzheimer's disease the odds ratio of head injury was 2.36 and 2.46 for all dementias combined (p < 0.05).

Conclusion: The study confirms a positive association between reported head injury and Alzheimer's disease as well as non-Alzheimer type dementia. Head trauma did not appear to be a specific risk for Alzheimer's disease as previously claimed. The association was modified by sex being only significant in male patients.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / epidemiology
  • Alzheimer Disease / etiology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Dementia / epidemiology
  • Dementia / etiology
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Head Injuries, Closed / complications*
  • Head Injuries, Closed / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors