It's called the "invisible injury" for a reason: brain injury is notoriously difficult to diagnose and treat. Brain injury has also become known as the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As of 2011, more than 212,000 service members sustained a TBI, many of which from blast injuries — the primary cause of TBI in combat. And symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and TBI often overlap, making diagnosis and treatment more challenging.
Brain injuries in Iraq or Afghanistan have triggered the most advanced medical trauma response in history. Scores of medical professionals collaborate to provide sophisticated care that involves helicopter evacuation, battlefield wound care, flying intensive care units, and state-of-the-art hospital care and rehabilitation. Because of the highly advanced care, survival rates are higher than in any previous wars.
Once diagnosed, TBI is treated by a complex plan of medical rehabilitation, which can include one or a combination of rest, physical and occupational therapy, psychotherapy, and medication. Long- and short-term treatment can involve the combined efforts of neurologists, psychiatrists, physiatrists, an array of rehabilitation therapists, case managers, and social workers, along with a person's network of friends and family.
The last thing Samuel Console, a retired Pennsylvania Army National Guard lieutenant, remembers after the explosion in Iraq was an orange flash of light. It wasn't until six years later he was diagnosed with brain injury.
Despite the pre-conceived ideas people may have about hypnotherapy, it is actually more about awareness and control than the lack thereof. Lt. Col. Jeffrey Yarvis, PhD talks about how effectively it can work for people with TBI and PTSD.
Dr. Geoffery Ling talks about the use of the Miliatary Acute Concussion Exam (MACE) — a simple, standardized tool for first providers. "It's better to have an 80 percent solution now than a 100 percent solution that you never see."
Dr. Geoffrey Ling shares his work on the Revolutionizing Prosthetics Program, especially on the mechanical arm that allows a soldier or veteran to open a door, feed himself, even pick up an M&M and place it in his mouth.
Accepting changes in oneself after a brain injury can be difficult. But denying the changes, over the long run, will be more painful — for the injured person and those he loves. Adam shares his experience.
Dr. Shane McNamee of the Richmond VAMC talks about helping each veteran transform from a patient with complex injuries back to an individual with many roles — Marine, father, husband, son, athlete, artist ...
Service members who sustained a TBI in theater need to seek professional care once they are home. Sharing their injury history, symptoms, and any diagnosis or treatment done in theater will help the stateside doctors better tailor care.
Realizing you are not the only one with a brain injury gives you the abiity to get insight into the injury-related challenges, get help, make a plan, and carry on from there. Navy veteran Derek McGinnis shares his experience.
Vets and service members need help after injury not only to build on the strengths they once had but also to realize how to grow and change from there. Navy veteran Derek McGinnis shares his experience.
"There have been people who didn't leave me even when I told them to, who gave me chances, who listened even during my darkest times post-injury. I couldn't have made it without them." Navy veteran Derek McGinnis shares his experience.
Surgical and non-surgical interventions for TBI, especially those that are more severe, hinge on accurate diagnosis. More research is needed to fine-tune how TBIs are diagnosed — in ERs and in theater.
There is always more to learn, but certain changes — from monitoring cranial pressure in the brain to having patients lie at an incline instead of flat — have increased recovery in patients post-injury.
For service members with mild TBI and substance abuse issues, their job is to get better. Their command works with them to get them better and back to their units.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the function of the brain. Each year there are a reported 1.7 million civilian brain injuries in the United States. In the military from 2000 through 2012, more than 266,000 service members sustained a TBI. Brain injury has become known as the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most brain injuries are mild, and most people recover in a matter of weeks. BrainLineMilitary.org provides military-specific information and resources on traumatic brain injury to veterans; service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, National Guard, and Reserve; and their families.
BrainLine.org is a WETA website funded by the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center through a contract with the Henry M. Jackson Foundation. Government funding support is not an endorsement of WETA or any of its products, including this website.