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Brain Injury in U.S. Troops — A Long-Awaited Government Study Is Published

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The Institute of Medicine has issued a long-awaited government report on screening US troops for brain injury (TBI). The report calls on the military to test all new recruits for cognitive skills, then do large studies of returning combat veterans, to better evaluate for traumatic brain injury, the signature wound of the Iraq War.

USA Today’s 2007 article, “Scientists: Brain Injuries from War Worse than Thought,” estimated that some 5500 military personnel have suffered brain injuries, accounting for 22% of all casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan—twice the rate reported in Vietnam. These injuries are related to the blast impact of roadside IEDs (improvised explosive devices).

TBIs have had long-term medical consequences for our returning troops, including an alarming rate of suicide. In April 2008, the RAND Corporation found that of the 1.6 million veterans of the war, 300,000 have PTSD, 320,000 had TBIs, and 80,000 suffer from depression.

The Health Freedom Foundation sponsored hyperbaric oxygen treatment for a Marine machine gunner who experienced seven concussive events from roadside bombs during two tours in Iraq. After these hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments (HBOT), his migraine headaches disappeared, his sleep was restored, his PTSD was gone, and he is now actively employed. This was just one instance but clearly showed the need for more study. At Louisiana State University, Dr. Paul Harch is now treating another thirty veterans of the war who have TBI and PTSD. AAHF sought funding from Congress for this important study for the past two years. This year, after nearly 200 visits to members of Congress, funding was finally provided.

We cannot delay action to screen new troops and confirm that hyperbaric oxygen therapy should be the standard of care for traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress disorder, and depression in our wounded veterans. It is our turn to serve those who have served us.

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