Veteranclaims’s Blog

March 15, 2009

Associated between Combat Head Injuries and Depression, and PTSD.

Filed under: Uncategorized — veteranclaims @ 1:26 am

This article seems to be relevant on PTSD, Depression and combat head injuries.

The report, a review of 1,900 previous studies of brain trauma, found a link between moderate and severe injuries and rising depression, memory loss, aggression, Parkinson’s-like tremors and social problems that hinder employment.

Even mild head injuries may be linked to aggression, loss of concentration and post-traumatic stress disorder, though the panel of 16 physicians said the evidence was less clear in those cases.

A Rand Corp. survey of 1,965 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in April found one in five suffered from depression or post- traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD, yet only half got treatment.
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Bloomberg Anywhere
Updated: New York, Dec 04 15:12

Combat Head Injuries Tied to Depression, Dementia

By Alex Nussbaum

Dec. 4 (Bloomberg) — U.S. soldiers who suffer battlefield head injuries face higher risks of depression, dementia and stress disorders, according to a U.S. panel that warned the problems often go undiagnosed.

The National Academy of Sciences panel called for more study of the lasting impacts of brain trauma from roadside bombs and other explosives, an injury that has become “the signature wound” of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the group said in a report.

Serious brain injuries account for 22 percent of U.S. casualties in the two conflicts and have wounded about 5,500 members of the military, according to the study, released today by the Academy’s Institute of Medicine. The brain injury rate is almost double that of the Vietnam War, pushed up by the increasing power of enemy attacks as well as stronger body armor and better medical care that keep more soldiers alive.

“It’s a good news-bad news situation,” said George W. Rutherford, a University of California, San Francisco, epidemiologist who led the panel. “Because these kinds of blasts are survivable now where in the past they haven’t been, it’s a whole new spectrum of disease that the modern military has never really had to deal with before.”

The report, a review of 1,900 previous studies of brain trauma, found a link between moderate and severe injuries and rising depression, memory loss, aggression, Parkinson’s-like tremors and social problems that hinder employment.

Even mild head injuries may be linked to aggression, loss of concentration and post-traumatic stress disorder, though the panel of 16 physicians said the evidence was less clear in those cases.

Missing Signs

The report, paid for by the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department, suggested doctors may not be diagnosing brain injuries, especially in soldiers who weren’t hit directly in the head, because of “an outdated dogma” that the skull adequately protects the brain in those cases.

That “confirms what we in the community have long known — that we’re really still behind the curve on this,” said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a New York-based group.

“This research, the urgency, it should have been happening in 2004, not 2008,” he said in a telephone interview.

The group, with 100,000 members, has called for more research funding, better screening and more mental health staff at veterans’ hospitals. Today’s report comes well-timed, with President-elect Barack Obama expected to name a new veteran’s affairs secretary in the coming weeks, Rieckhoff said.

Obama’s Opportunity

“We’ve really been kind of middling around the edges of this issue, and the new president has kind of an opportunity to issue a national call,” he said.

The National Academy report recommended the Pentagon mandate neurological tests for military personnel before they’re deployed to better assess effects after an injury. It also called for more attention to catching the effects of brain trauma during conflicts, rather than waiting for symptoms to arise after soldiers re-enter civilian life.

The veterans affairs department will “carefully review” the recommendations and issue a response within 60 days, the agency said in an e-mailed statement. In April, the department began screening veterans who entered its clinics and hospitals for brain trauma. Rieckhoff said that left out retired service members who may be sick but don’t seek out VA care.

A Rand Corp. survey of 1,965 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in April found one in five suffered from depression or post- traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD, yet only half got treatment.

Treating combat-related mental health and neurological ailments would cost the U.S. as much as $6.2 billion in the two years after deployments end, the Santa Monica, California-based public policy group said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Nussbaum in New York anussbaum1@bloomberg.net.
Last Updated: December 4, 2008 13:04 EST

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