A common class of drug used to treat conditions ranging from bladder problems to depression and insomnia may hinder recovery from brain injury according to a new report published in the journal Brain Injury. The study from the University of East Anglia in the UK shows older individuals on anticholinergics may experience slower brain injury recovery.
Anticholinergics have already been found to have several side effects, such as temporary cognitive impairment, confusion, and dizziness, but this is the first study to link the class of drugs with extended brain injury recovery.
For the study, researchers assessed 52 patients who had suffered brain or spinal injury and were treated at a neuro-rehabilitation unit. Patients undergoing neuro-rehabilitation are often administered anticholinergics for pain, urinary incontinence, and other conditions.
According to the findings, the average length of stay was consistently longer for those with higher levels of anticholinergic drug burden (ACB) found in their system.
The results indicate a direct association between changes in ACB levels and length of hospital stay. Individuals with higher ACB scores upon discharge than upon admission experienced longer hospital stays while those with lower scores on discharge were hospitalized for shorter periods.
While the findings may raise eyebrows, this study was only intended to find correlation, not a cause-and-effect relationship. More research is needed to definitively show anticholinergics delay brain injury recovery.