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Study of Veterans Shows TBI Symptoms May Not Improve with Time

Craig McClellan

A new study has potentially bad news for traumatic brain injuries. A study of 500 veterans who tested positive for traumatic brain injury during deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan suggests that the symptoms of the injury may last for years without improvement.

The veterans were treated at a special traumatic brain injury clinic at the Oklahoma City Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The clinic gauged head injury symptoms known collectively as post-concussion syndrome: headaches, dizziness, poor coordination, problems with decision making and depression.

Regardless of whether the veterans had received a traumatic brain injury within four years or between five and eight years before the screening, most symptoms did not appear to improve over time.

The symptoms worsened for veterans with more than one traumatic brain injury. While most of the 500 military members had been injured in explosions, the author of the study said the results did not appear to be different for veterans with brain injuries from motor vehicle accidents or other sources.

Traumatic brain injuries can occur from military combat, motor vehicle accidents, sports accidents and other causes. These injuries are complex because they are both physical and psychiatric, with separate treatments depending on the symptoms. The injury can be difficult to understand because people with TBI may look like the rest of the population, but they often do not act the same.

The study author says that early recognition and treatment is critical, and that longer-term studies of veterans with post-concussion syndrome are needed to determine the types of symptoms that persist and which treatments are most effective.

Source: New York Times, " Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injuries Can Persist for Years," James Dao, July 18, 2012.