Patients taking cholesterol-lowering statins when admitted to the hospital for a brain injury are 76% more likely to survive than those who are not taking the drugs, according to a recent Johns Hopkins study published in this month’s issue of The Journal of Trauma.  These patients also had a 13% greater chance of attaining high-quality recovery after 1 year.

While there are currently no specific treatments for traumatic brain injury, these latest findings may direct researchers toward one. Although lower cholesterol is not likely the reason for the improved recovery rate, researchers believe that other, lesser-known properties of statins could be responsible.

Eric B. Schneider, PhD, and his team at Johns Hopkins analyzed more than 520 patients over 65 who experienced moderate to severe brain damage. Those taking statins were 76% less likely to die; however, those who also had documented heart disease did not experience the same benefits.

Previous studies have linked the anti-inflammatory effect of statins to better survival after stroke and other types of trauma. Researchers surmise that statins may curb the body’s immune response, preventing the attack of healthy brain tissue and limiting it to damaged tissue. Additionally, statins may prevent more extensive damage by blocking chemical byproducts and excess white blood cells from crossing the blood-brain barrier.

The next step is a clinical trial to see if statins administered in the emergency room to brain-injured patients who were not taking statins at the time of their injury could help them recover.