Alzheimer’s Patients on Antidepressants Have Higher Head Injury Risk, Study Finds

The use of antidepressants in patients with Alzheimer’s disease increased their risk of head injuries, a Finnish study recently found. The risk of head injuries in these patients previously had not been studied. Head injuries are often a consequence of falls in older people.

The study, “Risk of head and traumatic brain injuries associated with antidepressant use among community-dwelling persons with Alzheimer’s disease: a nationwide matched cohort study,” was published this month in the journal Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy.

Because older people have a greater risk of falling, it is not surprising that head injuries are more common among the Alzheimer’s population. Antidepressant use already had been shown to increase the risk of falls and hip fractures in patients with Alzheimer’s. But this is the first time the risk of head injuries has been studied.

The research is part of a nationwide study known as MEDALZ, which looked at medication use in patients with Alzheimer’s in Finland between 2005 and 2011. The study examined the records of 10,910 Alzheimer’s patients using antidepressants and 21,820 who were not using them.

Patients with Alzheimer’s were found to be at a greater risk of head injuries while using antidepressants, especially during the first 30 days of taking them. That increased risk remained prevalent for up to two years. A greater risk for traumatic brain injuries also was seen in the study, but the difference in risk between patients with Alzheimer’s using antidepressants and those not using them was not as great as it was for head injuries.

“However, our findings give cause for concern because persons with Alzheimer’s disease frequently use antidepressants, which have been considered a safer alternative to, for example, benzodiazepines,” senior researcher Heidi Taipale, from the University of Eastern Finland, said in a press release.

“Our study population consisted of persons diagnosed with Alzheimer’s…

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