This past week the LA Times ran a great three-part series on traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). TBIs are of course a major issue among veterans and active service members, with between 48,000 and 360,000 TBIs estimated among OEF/OIF service members.
The first article discusses the military’s efforts to develop ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat TBIs, utilizing innovations from the field of sports medicine. Among these new practices include new, more protective helmets; neuroprotectants (drugs which increase the brain’s resistance against physical trauma); the introduction of testing for genetic predisposition to brain injury; the use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and the identification of biomarkers (e.g., proteins in the blood whose presence would indicate a TBI) to diagnose brain injuries; and, quite simply, more frequent and thorough testing for TBIs. You can read the full article here.
The second article tells the story of Larry Carr, a sergeant in the Army National Guard who was struck by a blast of shrapnel to his head when a roadside bomb exploded by the Humvee he was riding in. Though Carr successfully underwent surgery to have the shrapnel removed and preliminary testing showed no damage to his brain, after he was discharged he experienced symptoms such as headaches, unprovoked anger, and forgetfulness. His symptoms were even misdiagnosed as PTSD until more in-depth cognitive testing revealed that Carr had indeed sustained a TBI. Only then was he able to undergo treatment for his now accurately-diagnosed condition. You can read more about Larry’s story here.
The final article details the ways in which the military is taking the lead in researching new methods diagnosing and treating TBIs. In 2008, the Pentagon spent almost $1 billion on TBI-related research.
“Our motto is ‘learn as we treat,’ ” says Col. Michael S. Jaffee, a physician who directs the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. “That allows us to better identify those things that need to be researched. And it allows those advances that do get developed to be translated into practice more quickly.”
Read the full article here.