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Frank Tortella, PhD: The Many Dangers of an IED

The Many Dangers of an IED

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So with regards to an IED or an IED-type event, these are explosions, and you'll commonly hear them referred to as blast injuries, because there's a large explosion, so there's a large blast. Quite often these IEDs are set along travel routes for convoys, et cetera. So a soldier or a group of soldiers could be within feet of the blast. They could be--well actually it would be meters. So they could be within meters or they could be 50 meters or 100 meters away, and clearly the distance the target, so to speak--in other words, how close they are is going to have a big impact in terms of whether or not they experience an injury. And these injuries actually can be extremely, extremely severe to the body, but what we've learned is that the brain appears to be again quite sensitive to these blast events. So there's this large explosion, and it causes what they call a shock wave, a blast wave, a wave of energy that appears to be damaging to-- well it certainly is damaging to porous tissues like the lungs and the liver. We've known that for years. But I guess because the brain is encased in this skull, we kind of thought maybe it was protected, but it doesn't quite look like that's the case. And then our enemies are really quite sophisticated and quite intelligent, and what they will do is they will load up these devices with nails, with ball bearings, metal spheres, with fragments of concrete, whatever. So you also have the possibility of actually being hit--your body, your head-- and have a penetrating injury, something penetrate through the skull. And then there's the other type of blast injury where, let's say, for example, you're in a Humvee. The IED goes off. It maybe causes the Humvee to roll or it impacts the vehicle to the extent that now it's like being in a car accident, and you wind up slamming your head against the windshield, against the pavement. Yes, you're wearing a helmet, but still the impacts could be incredibly severe. So now you're suffering from a concussion-type event that wouldn't differ relative to what anyone in the civilian community would experience with the exception that, of course, there is still this blast wave, there's still this pressure wave to deal with.

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An IED explosion can not only cause a blast injury from the shock waves themselves, but can also cause concussion or a penetrating injury at the same time.

See more videos with Dr. Frank Tortella.


Produced by Brian King and Noel Gunther, BrainLine.

Frank C. Tortella, ST, PhDFrank C. Tortella, ST, PhD, Frank Tortella, ST, PhD serves as the U.S. Army’s Medical Research and Material Command’s subject matter expert on neurotrauma and neuroprotection research for a diverse range of insults to include traumatic brain injury, concussions, and the neurological effects of blast exposure.

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