Traumatic brain injury, stroke, and epilepsy: A mediation study in a Danish nationwide cohort



Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and stroke are well-known causes of acquired epilepsy. TBI is also a risk factor for stroke, and injury-induced stroke may indirectly convey a proportion of the epilepsy risk following TBI. We studied the extent to which the effect of TBI on epilepsy operated through intermediary stroke.


We analyzed a nationwide, matched, register-based cohort of adults ≥$$ ge $$ 40 years of age whose first TBI at Danish hospitals was recorded between 2004 and 2016. A matched reference population was sampled for comparison. During follow-up, we recorded all acute strokes. Cox proportional hazard models and the difference method were used to estimate the total and controlled direct effect hazard ratios (HRs) of TBI on epilepsy and the indirect effect HRs of TBI on epilepsy operating through stroke, and to calculate the proportion eliminated. Analyses were stratified by severity of, age at, and time since TBI.


We followed 57 900 persons with TBI (48.6% males) from median age 61 years (interquartile range = 51–75), and 561 977 age- and sex-matched references. The total effect of TBI on epilepsy was higher for persons aged 40–59 years (HR = 5.15, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 4.65–5.72) than for persons aged ≥$$ ge $$ 60 years (HR = 4.55, 95% CI = 4.19–4.95). In contrast, the indirect effect of TBI mediated by stroke was lower for persons aged 40–59 years (HR = 1.02, 95% CI = 1.02–1.03) than for persons aged ≥$$ ge $$ 60 years (HR = 1.05, 95% CI = 1.04–1.06). We estimated 2.3% and 5.6% of the risk of epilepsy after TBI to operate through stroke for these age groups, respectively.


Less than 6% of the risk of epilepsy following TBI operated through intermediary stroke. However, this mechanism seems to play an increasing role with age and for late onset epilepsies. This warrants further investigation.