More young people have blood clots in the brain

​An increasing number of young people experience blood clots in the brain. Young males are particularly at risk. This is the result of a new research study from Rigshospitalet. Although the condition is still rare among young people, the results call for a greater focus on young people with regard to prevention and rehabilitation.  

A new research study from Rigshospitalet under a project to enhance efforts aimed at young people with acquired brain injury shows that the number of 15-30-year-olds who experience a blood clot in the brain has increased considerably over a period of 18 years.

The study covers the period 1994 to 2012 and is based on data from national health registers. The increase in the number of blood clots is especially high from 2006 and onwards. The number of young people who experience blood clots in the brain has gone up by 12% every year from 2006 to 2012. The same is the case for so-called TIAs; short-lived blood clots in the brain. Throughout the period covered by the study, the number of TIAs in young people increased by 4% each year. In 2012, as many as 182 young people experienced apoplexy and 63 TIA.

The result surprises Physician and PhD student Maiken Tibæk, who carried out the study. However, she also stresses that blood clots in the brain continue to be rare among young people compared with other age groups. 

“Although the increase is considerable, the actual number of young people experiencing blood clots in the brain is still very modest. The study just shows that the rare condition has become slightly less rare,” said Maiken Tibæk.  

Blood clots in the brain may be lifestyle-related

In general, women are more likely to have blood clots in the brain than men. Therefore, another surprising result of the study is that young males account for the majority of the increase in the number of blood clots in young people. The number of blood clots in the brain in young males increased by around 16% annually from 2006 to 2012. For TIAs, the annual increase was just below 15%. 

The study does not suggest why more young people are now experiencing blood clots in the brain, but other research studies indicate that lifestyle may be significant.  

“Studies from outside Denmark have shown that lifestyle factors such as obesity, smoking, lack of physical activity, and diabetes can increase the risk of blood clots in the brain. During the period studied, these risk factors have actually remained constant in Denmark, with the exception of  diabetes, where occurrence has gone up. This suggests a relationship between diabetes and the increase in the number of blood clots in the brain among young people. However, this type of study, which is based on register data, cannot confirm or reject this hypothesis,” said Maiken Tibæk. 

More focus on young people 

The results should encourage further study into the cause of the observed increase.  If the greater number of blood clots is related to lifestyle factors, there should be more lifestyle campaigns targeted at young people.  At the same time, it is important that young people are not forgotten in rehabilitation efforts, as Maiken Tibæk said:  

“An increase in the number of blood clots in young people will lead to a greater number of young people having to live with the long-term effects of a clot. We know from the outpatient clinic in our project that these young people often have difficulty completing education, keeping up full-time employment or establishing a normal family life. We also know that ‘hidden’ or mental disabilities, such as reduced learning ability, changes in personality and general fatigue, are common and often very disabling consequences of apoplexy.  Young people with apoplexy are especially vulnerable and require extra attention.”

​Enhanced efforts in the Capital Region of Denmark for young people with brain injury resulting from a blood clot

  • A four-year project aimed at young people aged between 15 and 30 with brain injury resulting from a blood clot.
  • The objective is to identify young people with brain injury, to monitor them closely, and to enhance the qualifications of the healthcare staff who come into contact with the young patients. 
  • The Department of Neurology and the Department of Highly Specialised Neurorehabilitation/Traumatic Brain Damage have collaborated on the project.
  • The project is part of national Danish efforts for young people with an acquired brain injury. There are similar outpatient clinics in the remaining Danish regions.

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