Study Shows Commonly Prescribed Drugs May Impact Brain Injury Recovery

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eHealth_Aug-10-2015_news-_effect-of-common-drugs-on-brain-injury_bawaAnticholinergic drugs are sometimes prescribed to treat common issues, such as depression, insomnia, and bladder conditions. However, a new study published in the journal Brain Injury shows that these drugs can have a negative impact on patients who suffer from a brain injury.

Researchers looked at 52 individuals who had endured injuries to their brains or spinal cords and were receiving treatment at a neuro-rehab unit—patients undergoing neuro-rehab treatment are often prescribed anticholinergics to manage pain and other conditions.

As expected, the longer the patients stayed in the unit, the higher the anticholinergic drug burden (ACB) they displayed. Researchers found a direct correlation between the length of stay and changes in ACB—patients who had higher ACB scores at the time of discharge than when admitted had stayed longer on average, compared to patients with lower ACB scores upon discharge.

Anticholinergics have been known to cause side effects like confusion, dizziness, and cognitive impairment, and researchers warn that these side effects can interfere with the ability to fully engage in the recovery and rehabilitation process for patients managing a brain or spinal injury.

The study’s authors point out that there is a need for a more in-depth investigation into the potential long-term impact of medications, like anticholinergics. It also emphasizes the need for doctors, nurses, and pharmacists to regularly review medications to ensure that they’re being used appropriately and without increasing the risk of potentially harmful side effects.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Sakel, M., et al., “Does anticholinergics drug burden relate to global neuro-disability outcome measures and length of hospital stay?” Brain Injury 2015;, doi: 10.3109/02699052.2015.1060358.
Paddock, C., “Brain injury may be hampered by commonly used drugs,” Medical News Today web site, August 10, 2015;