Saturday, December 06, 2008

Brain injuries vs. seizures

Traumatic brain injuries, one of the signature injuries of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, can be linked to such long-term problems as seizures, aggression and dementia reminiscent of Alzheimer's disease, according to a long-awaited Institute of Medicine report released Thursday.
Even mild brain injuries, the report found, appear to be associated with some of these outcomes.
The report by the Institute of Medicine, a government advisory group that studies health and medical issues, was the latest installment in a series of studies commissioned by the Department of Veterans Affairs on the health of veterans.

It was intended to aid officials in understanding what other conditions they should look out for in brain-injured patients and in determining disability benefits, said Dr. George Rutherford, chair of the committee that wrote the report.

The authors reviewed 1,900 studies on traumatic brain injuries, looking for problems that persisted more than six months. The report showed a "big hole" in medical knowledge about blast injuries, which have only recently come to doctors' attention because they are hallmarks of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Rutherford said.

"Some 5,500 military personnel have suffered brain injuries from mild to severe. The wounds account for an estimated 22 percent of all casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq — about twice the rate in Vietnam. Experts attribute this increase in part to better on-site medical care and body armor that allows ground troops to survive blasts that would otherwise be deadly.

Both the Veterans Affairs Department and the Pentagon have stepped up efforts to address the problem. In a telephone interview, Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton, director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, said there was "no daylight between the recommendations and actions the Department of Defense has taken already." She called that "a source of confidence, and reassuring."

The New York Times contributed to this report.


Post a Comment

<< Home