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The Battle is Not Over for Our Iraqi War Vets—Traumatic Brain Injury Has Long-Lasting Consequences

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The latest issue of Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development focuses on identifying which combat veterans with traumatic brain injury might need more intensive treatment. As Pulse of Health Freedom pointed out in its October 7 issue, concussions or traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are common among veterans serving in the Iraq war. TBI has been linked to a disturbing rate of suicide and other long-term health consequences in our returning combat veterans.

They studied 126 veterans who had lost consciousness from explosions an average of three times while in Iraq; 80 of them had been exposed to more explosions than the others, and had neurological impairments linked to the concussions. Among the 80 veterans with brain impairments, 93% reported having headaches; of those who showed no dysfunction on the neurological tests, only 13% had headaches. The headaches also were more severe and persistent in those with brain impairments: 60% of them reported migraine-like headaches occurring an average of twelve times a month.
Additionally, many of the veterans also experienced other symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), including sleep disorders and problems with their olfactory senses—that is, their sense of smell. “The olfactory nerves are very small, so when there’s movement, they get sheared off,” said Keith Young, associate professor and vice chairman for research at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. Young also works with the V.A. Center of Excellence for Research on Returning War Veterans. “The study points to the possibility of using olfactory testing to look for people who might benefit from additional medical testing,” Young said. “The good news about these olfactory tests is that they don’t require computers, so in a field hospital, you could use scratch-and-sniff tests to identify people who need additional testing. It suggests that the treatment for these people needs to be integrated,” he said.  “We need to treat not just head trauma or the PTSD but to treat them together. People who have multiple exposures to blasts that cause loss of consciousness need to be carefully monitored for potential problems in the future.”
AAHF has made concerted efforts to establish hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) as the standard of care for TBI after the work of Dr. Paul Harch and others showed its ability to reverse the long-term consequences of both TBI and PTSD. In fact, the January 12 edition of the Detroit Free Press focused on the healing benefits of HBOT. According to the article, “Some specialists say hyperbaric oxygen therapy is one of the fastest-growing technologies in America.” Our wounded combat veterans deserve hyperbaric oxygen as the standard of care to treat traumatic brain injuries.

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