A new study by a University of Washington neurologist followed dozens of service members who sustained concussive blast injury and the study is showing that the impact of wartime brain injuries is devastating.
According to an article posted on the King 5 website, Dr. Christine MacDonald, who is an associate professor of neurological surgery at UW School of Medicine, followed 50 soldiers who sustained a brain injury during war.
The study focuses on the impact of injuries and revealed that while many health professionals believe service members stabilize about a year following a blast injury, many are still dealing with the physical and mental impact of their injury much longer than a year.
MacDonald utilized brain imaging and other techniques over several years for the study.
“… MacDonald found these service members’ mental health symptoms evolved and even worsened five years later,” the article reads. “The takeaway for me that was so striking was the substantial number of service members who significantly declined in this population that was supposed to be the mildest of the mild and that even with help that so few experienced sustained resolution,” Mac Donald said.
The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that nearly one-in-five of more than 2 million soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered a traumatic brain injury.
“MacDonald said her findings call for a stronger emphasis at the VA and across other healthcare systems on continuity of care and a comprehensive long term treatment strategy,” the article reads.
One of the participants in the study was still struggling to hold down a traditional job eight years after sustaining a brain injury when he was injured from the backblast of an RPG while serving in Afghanistan in 2009.
MacDonald has been following the veteran soldier for about five years
“Some days, the box medications he takes each day for pain and mental health struggles related to his brain injury and the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder he developed are nearly as debilitating as the symptoms themselves,” the article reads.
He is one of more than 80,000 service members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and has been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury by the Department of Veterans Affairs, many of whom have struggled to obtain care, which alleviates their symptoms.