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Traumatic Brain Injuries Linked to Long-Term Health Issues for Iraq Vets
Date:12/4/2008

Government report notes problems include dementia, aggression, depression

THURSDAY, Dec. 4 (HealthDay News) -- A new report provides evidence linking traumatic brain injury sustained by troops in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan to a variety of long-term health problems including dementia, aggression, depression and symptoms similar to those seen in Parkinson's disease.

But the Institute of Medicine committee charged with developing the report also pointed to a troubling lack of scientific data on such injuries, which are fairly recent in the history of warfare.

"The real bottom line significant finding is that there's not a good human literature on the kinds of neurotrauma seen in Iraq and Afghanistan caused by blasts," said Dr. George W. Rutherford, vice chair of the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. "The human literature is really about people who've had [brain injury] from car crashes or falling down stairs and, in the military, from shrapnel or gunshots. We're all worried that blast neurotrauma hasn't really made it into the human literature."

This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to anticipate and hopefully mitigate the long-term consequences of such injuries, added Rutherford, who chaired the committee that wrote the report.

"They focused on blast-induced neurotrauma, a blast injury that leaves the head without any external marks of even being knocked about," explained Keith Young, vice chair for research at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and Neuroimaging and Genetics Core Leader for the VA Center of Excellence for Research on Returning War Veterans. "The blast is so close and so large, it seems to be shaking the brain. My guess is that this causes micro-bleeds," Young said.

The current U.S. conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have been ongoing since Oct. 7, 2001 and March 200
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