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MMWR Surveill Summ. 2011 May 6;60(5):1-32.

Surveillance for traumatic brain injury-related deaths--United States, 1997-2007.

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Division of Injury Response, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC, Atlanta, Georgia 30341, USA.



Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of death and disability in the United States. Approximately 53,000 persons die from TBI-related injuries annually. During 1989-1998, TBI-related death rates decreased 11.4%, from 21.9 to 19.4 per 100,000 population. This report describes the epidemiology and annual rates of TBI-related deaths during 1997-2007.


January 1, 1997-December 31, 2007.


Data were analyzed from the CDC multiple-cause-of-death public-use data files, which contain death certificate data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.


During 1997-2007, an annual average of 53,014 deaths (18.4 per 100,000 population; range: 17.8-19.3) among U.S. residents were associated with TBIs. During this period, death rates decreased 8.2%, from 19.3 to 17.8 per 100,000 population (p = 0.001). TBI-related death rates decreased significantly among persons aged 0-44 years and increased significantly among those aged ≥75 years. The rate of TBI deaths was three times higher among males (28.8 per 100,000 population) than among females (9.1). Among males, rates were highest among non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Natives (41.3 per 100,000 population) and lowest among Hispanics (22.7). Firearm- (34.8%), motor-vehicle- (31.4%), and fall-related TBIs (16.7%) were the leading causes of TBI-related death. Firearm-related death rates were highest among persons aged 15-34 years (8.5 per 100,000 population) and ≥75 years (10.5). Motor vehicle-related death rates were highest among those aged 15-24 years (11.9 per 100,000 population). Fall-related death rates were highest among adults aged ≥75 years (29.8 per 100,000 population). Overall, the rates for all causes except falls decreased.


Although the overall rate of TBI-related deaths decreased during 1997-2007, TBI remains a public health problem; approximately 580,000 persons died with TBI-related diagnoses during this reporting period in the United States. Rates of TBI-related deaths were higher among young and older adults and certain minority populations. The leading external causes of this condition were incidents related to firearms, motor vehicle traffic, and falls.


Accurate, timely, and comprehensive surveillance data are necessary to better understand and prevent TBI-related deaths in the United States. CDC multiple-cause-of-death public-use data files can be used to monitor the incidence of TBI-related deaths and assist public health practitioners and partners in the development, implementation, and evaluation of programs and policies to reduce and prevent TBI-related deaths in the United States. Rates of TBI-related deaths are higher in certain population groups and are primarily related to specific external causes. Better enforcement of existing seat belt laws, implementation and increased coverage of more stringent helmet laws, and the implementation of existing evidence-based fall-related prevention interventions are examples of interventions that can reduce the incidence of TBI in the United States.

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