[Marxism] Traumatic Brain Injury
lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Mar 4 11:18:58 MST 2005
Key Iraq wound: Brain trauma
By Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY, March 4, 2005
A growing number of U.S. troops whose body armor helped them survive bomb
and rocket attacks are suffering brain damage as a result of the blasts.
It's a type of injury some military doctors say has become the signature
wound of the Iraq war.
Known as traumatic brain injury, or TBI, the wound is of the sort that many
soldiers in previous wars never lived long enough to suffer. The explosions
often cause brain damage similar to "shaken-baby syndrome," says Warren
Lux, a neurologist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.
"You've got great body armor on, and you don't die," says Louis French, a
neuropsychologist at Walter Reed. "But there's a whole other set of
possible consequences. It's sort of like when they started putting airbags
in cars and started seeing all these orthopedic injuries." (Related item:
The injury is often hard to recognize for doctors, for families and for
the troops themselves. Months after being hurt, many soldiers may look
fully recovered, but their brain functions remain labored. "They struggle
much more than you think just from talking to them, so there is that sort
of hidden quality to it," Lux says.
To identify cases of TBI, doctors at Walter Reed screened every arriving
servicemember wounded in an explosion, along with those hurt in Iraq or
Afghanistan in a vehicle accident or fall, or by a gunshot wound to the
face, neck or head. They found TBI in about 60% of the cases. The largest
group was 21-year-olds. (Related story: Survivors struggle to regain control)
From January 2003 to this January, 437 cases of TBI were diagnosed among
wounded soldiers at the Army hospital, Lux says. Slightly more than half
had permanent brain damage. Similar TBI screening began in August at
National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., near Washington. It showed
83% or 97 wounded Marines and sailors with temporary or permanent brain
damage. Forty-seven cases of moderate to severe TBI were identified earlier
in the year.
The wound may come to characterize this war, much the way illnesses from
Agent Orange typified the Vietnam War, doctors say. "The numbers make it a
serious problem," Lux says.
An explosion can cause the brain to move violently inside the skull. The
shock wave from the blast can also damage brain tissue, Lux says. "The good
news is that those people would have been dead" in earlier wars, says
Deborah Warden, national director of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury
Center. "But now they're alive. And we need to help them."
Symptoms of TBI vary. They include headaches, sensitivity to light or
noise, behavioral changes, impaired memory and a loss in problem-solving
In severe cases, victims must relearn how to walk and talk. "It's like
being born again, literally," says Sgt. Edward "Ted" Wade, 27, a soldier
with the 82nd Airborne Division who lost his right arm and suffered TBI in
an explosion last year near Fallujah. Today, he sometimes struggles to
formulate a thought, and his eyes blink repeatedly as he concentrates.
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