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Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Army Task Force Finds Problems with Brain Injury Care
USA TODAY, January 18, 2008, WASHINGTON — An Army task force found major gaps in the care of traumatic brain injury last year, but officials say they are moving rapidly to correct the problems.
A task force study — completed last May but not made public until Thursday — found fault with several issues, including efforts to identify and treat soldiers suffering mild traumatic brain injury often resulting from exposure to roadside bomb blasts.
Although victims often show no outward sign of the injury, it can affect brain functions dealing with short-term memory, problem solving and sleep, and cause nausea, dizziness and headaches. Treatment often involves pulling a soldier out of combat temporarily or permanently, and treating the symptoms.
Screening efforts show 10% to 20% of Marines and soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq may have suffered this wound, according to the Army. The task force last May found that "major gaps" in identifying and treating the injury "were created by a lack of coordination and policy-driven approaches."
This was despite the fact that researchers at the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center — the Pentagon's premier clinical research office for brain injury — had developed ways of identifying the wound in 2004, the study said.
USA TODAY reported in November that at least 20,000 U.S. service members returning from combat have been diagnosed with, or shown signs of, brain injury.
"There is clearly a problem when the most common injury of the war is the least understood," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. "This task force is a long-overdue step forward in diagnosing and understanding the signature wound of this war."
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