NIH Launching Traumatic Brain Injury Database

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Defense (DoD) are collaborating on the creation of a central database to track <"">traumatic brain injuries, said the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), of the NIH. The Federal Interagency Traumatic Brain Injury Research (FITBIR) database will speed comparative efficacy research on brain injury treatment and diagnosis.

The four-year, $10 million effort, will result in a central repository for emerging data that will link to current databases and enable accurate study results comparisons. “There are many traumatic brain injury studies whose value to scientific research and clinical care could be greatly enhanced by transforming the data into a common, easily available format,” said Walter Koroshetz, M.D., deputy director of NINDS.

Not only do some 1.7 million people in the United States sustain traumatic brain injuries annually (typically from vehicular accidents and falls) our American service members face traumatic brain injury risks from their daily military operations, enemy fire, and improvised explosives. The DoD points out that in the past 12 years, over 200,000 service members deployed worldwide have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury. The total cost for traumatic brain injuries in he U.S., which includes medical care, lost pay, and other expenses, totals more than $60 billion.

“Despite the great burden of neurotrauma incidence, developing objective diagnostics and treatments has proven especially challenging for the medical community. Only by combining efforts through initiatives such as the FITBIR database can we hope to make major progress in this field,” said Colonel Dallas Hack, director of the U.S. Army Combat Casualty Research Program and joint chairperson for the Defense Health Program.

Because of limited treatment, injury variances and variances in what is reported and from where reports are obtained, and the many different ways in which the brain can be injured—as well as the many different brain areas that can be impacted—treatment remains challenging as do long-term outcomes and new treatment research. The FITBIR database is meant to respond to these challenges by collecting uniform, high-quality information on traumatic brain injury, such as brain imaging scans and neurological test results. Data will be obtained with informed consent and will not contain patient-identifying information.

“Uniform data makes it much easier to compare intervention results across a broad range of studies, providing innovative and unique insights that are not possible from a single study,” said Matthew McAuliffe, Ph.D. McAuliffe is the FITBIR database co-director and a member of NIH’s Center for Information Technology (CIT). “This is part of a larger effort by the government to make taxpayer-funded research more broadly available and usable,” McAuliffe added.

Once in place, FITBIR will help create a system to classify different types of traumatic brain injury; to specifically target studies to better understand treatment efficacy and for whom and under what conditions these treatments are efficacious; to enable enhanced diagnostic criteria for concussions and milder brain injuries; to allow for predictive markers to determine who is at greatest risk for conditions related to traumatic brain injuries (Alzheimer’s disease); to provide a better understanding of how other issues—age, gender, medical conditions—affect injury and recovery; and to provide improved “evidence-based” criteria for patient care from injury through rehabilitation.

Of note, the NIH CIT was chosen as a database builder because of its experience and success developing the National Database on Autism Research. Because that database structure will be reused, a savings of between 35 and 50 percent is expected, as is a significant time reduction.

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