Residual Effects of Combat-Related Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

J Neurotrauma. 2013 Apr;


Kontos, A. P., R. S. Kotwal, R. Elbin, R. H. Lutz, R. D. Forsten and P. J. Benson.



Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) has gained considerable notoriety during the past decade of conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, the relationship between combat-related mTBI and residual mTBI symptoms, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, and neurocognitive deficits remains unclear. The purpose of the study was to compare residual mTBI and PTSD symptoms, and neurocognitive deficits among U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) personnel with diagnosed blunt, blast, and blast-blunt combination mTBIs. This study involved a retrospective medical records review of 27,169 USASOC personnel who completed a military version of the Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment Cognitive Test (ImPACT), Post-Concussion Symptom Scale (PCSS), and PTSD Checklist (PCL) between November 2009 and December 2011. Of the 22,203 personnel who met criteria for the study, 2,813 (12.7%) had a diagnosis of at least one mTBI. A total of 28% (n= 410) of USASOC personnel with a history of diagnosed mTBI reported clinical levels of PTSD symptoms. Personnel with a history of diagnosed blunt (OR= 3.58), blast (OR= 4.23) or combination (OR= 5.73) mTBI were at significantly (p=.001) greater risk of reporting clinical levels of PTSD symptoms than those with no history of mTBI. A dose-response gradient for exposure to blast/combination mTBI on clinical levels of PTSD symptoms was also significant (p=.001). Individuals with blast/combination mTBIs scored higher in residual mTBI (p=.001) and PTSD symptoms (p=.001), and performed worse on tests of visual memory (p=.001), and reaction time (p=.001) than those with blunt or no mTBI history. Individuals with combination mTBIs scored lower in verbal memory (p=.02) than those with blunt mTBIs. Residual PTSD and mTBI symptoms appear to be more prevalent in personnel with blast mTBI. A dose-response gradient for blast mTBI and symptoms suggests that repeated exposures to these injuries may have lingering effects. Key Words: mTBI, PTSD, symptoms, military.

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