In honor of our veterans and active duty military, let's talk about Brain Injury.
Happy Independence Day! Thank you for taking time out of this holiday (my favorite of the year!) to read this. Not to dwell on a sore subject but since we’re all in a patriotic mood, I thought I would talk a little bit about our wounded veterans. Then you can head to your parade, bbq, pool party, etc!
Brain injury in our veterans and active duty military service men and women is a huge problem. It is called the invisible injury because these men and women look “fine.” But they’re not fine. The repeated injuries sustained by hits to the head, falls or just being in close proximity to a powerful blast have taken their toll on their brains. When we are exposed to the impact of a large explosion, the force of the blast causes the brain to move inside the skull, causing injury. Often these people aren’t aware of their injury or may feel as if they suffered a concussion. The after effects of these injuries can range from annoying to completely debilitating to suicide-inducing.
In 2017, the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) report nearly 350,000 incident diagnoses of TBI in the U.S. military between 2000 and 2017. Among those deployed, estimated rates of probable TBI range from 11–23%.
Numerous consequences of traumatic brain injury are reported in the literature. Among veterans with positive TBI screens in Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities, 80% indicate also having psychiatric diagnoses. Up to half of all service members with combat-related mild TBI (mTBI) meet criteria for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Over one-third with a history of mTBI have depression, with increased risk of suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and suicide completion. We are in the midst of a suicide epidemic within our military members. It is estimated that 20 service members a day commit suicide, 8,000 a year. Another 45 a day try and fail, another 16,000+ a year. (www.treatnow.org)
Adjusting for psychiatric comorbidities, veterans with a history of TBI are 1.55 times more likely to die from suicide than those without TBI. Additional sequelae associated with mTBI in veterans include cognitive impairment, alcohol misuse and binge drinking, pain disorders, and unemployment. This corresponds to civilian research where TBI has been linked to suicide, lower quality of life, and mood and anxiety disorders.
However, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy has been shown in numerous case studies as well as controlled trials to be an effective, medically safe treatment available for TBI/PTSD-wounded personnel and Veterans. Unlike the anti-depressants that these men and women are being prescribed, HBOT does NOT have a warning regarding suicidality and is not simply a mask to cover symptoms. It is the only currently available option, demonstrating promise for TBI/PTSD and concussions. The treatment is showing promise for anyone with brain injury, no matter how the injury is acquired. When utilized as part of a treatment protocol, HBOT can be a valuable tool to heal the brain and save lives.
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