In an effort to better understand the mechanisms and effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in military service members, the United States Department of Defense recently established the world’s first brain tissue repository. Military medical negligence attorneys with Jacksonville’s Spohrer & Dodd say the move is long overdue.
Statistics show that between 10 percent and 20 percent of all Iraq war veterans suffer at least a mild level of TBI. That percentage figure represents 150,000 to 400,000 servicemen and service women. For veterans with confirmed injuries to other parts of the body, the TBI rate rises to 33 percent. But studies also show that only a small percent of those affected are ever diagnosed.
Two reasons for that disparity in occurrence and diagnosis is that TBIs most commonly are closed head injuries, which can be very difficult to identify visually; and that TBI shares symptoms also strongly associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), including depression, mood swings, irritability, memory dysfunction and concentration limitations. As a result, TBI often is misdiagnosed as a different condition or missed altogether.
That’s particularly troubling when you consider the potential long-term effects of untreated TBI. These may include depression; dizziness or lightheadedness; clumsiness; forgetfulness; chronic fatigue; chronic headaches; loss of vision or hearing; stuttering or loss of speech; inability to read or write; and depression.
Formally known as the Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine Brain Tissue Repository for Traumatic Brain Injury, the DOD’s tissue bank may help change that.
“We have been at war for more than a decade, and our men and women have sacrificed,” said Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. “The military health care system is bringing all the resources it can to better understand how to prevent, diagnose and treat traumatic brain injuries and to ensure that service members have productive and long, quality lives. Our research efforts and treatment protocols are all geared toward improving care for these victims, and that will have benefits to the American public at large.”
The DOD’s tissue bank is housed at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland and funded with a multiyear grant from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command to advance the understanding and treatment of TBI in service members. The move shows that America’s powers-that-be finally are acknowledging the need for more specialized attention to TBI and related injuries.