To evaluate epidemiological patterns and lifetime costs of traumatic brain injury (TBI) identified in the emergency department (ED) within a publicly insured population in Ontario, Canada, in 2009.
A nationally representative, population-based database was used to identify TBI cases presenting to Ontario EDs between April 2009 and March 2010. We calculated unit costs for medical treatment and productivity loss, and multiplied these by corresponding incidence estimates to determine the lifetime costs of identified TBI cases across age group, sex, and mechanism of injury.
In 2009, there were more than 133,000 ED visits for TBI in Ontario, resulting in a conservative estimate of $945 million in lifetime costs. Lifetime cost estimates ranged from $279 million to $1.22 billion depending on the diagnostic criteria used to define TBI. Peak rates of TBI occurred among young children (ages 0-4 year) and the elderly (ages 85+ years). Males experienced a 53% greater rate of TBI and incurred two-fold higher costs compared with females. Falls, sports/bicyclist-related injuries, and motor vehicle crashes represented 47%, 12%, and 10% of TBI presenting to ED, respectively, and accounted for a significant proportion of costs.
This study revealed an enormous health and economic burden associated with TBI identified in the ED setting. Our findings underscore the importance of ongoing surveillance and prevention efforts targeted to vulnerable populations. More research is needed to fully appreciate the burden of TBI across a variety of health care settings.