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Civilian doctors see more combat brain injuries

With half of returning veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who seek medical care opting not to use the health benefits they’re entitled to at the Department of Veterans Affairs, civilian doctors are treating more and more patients with combat-related traumatic brain injury.

What’s more, patients who suffered TBI in combat have proven harder to treat, and have less chance of being completely cured, than civilians with TBI.

One main reason is that military patients are likely to have suffered multiple injuries, and that they might have had “pre-exposure factors” that make them harder to treat, according to the magazine Internal Medicine News.

"We have lots of folks who report 3, 5, 7, 10, 15 [TBIs],” the magazine quoted Dr. David X. Cifu, national director of the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Office at the VA, as saying at a recent national conference of the American Neuropsychiatric Association. “We really don’t know what multiple blast injuries mean in terms of outcome. We have to understand this better.”

"You will see these patients,” Dr. Evan Murray, a neurologist at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, told the audience of doctors, according to the magazine. “It’s important to be able to recognize the clinical manifestations and choose appropriate treatments."

Bottom line, Cifu urged the conference of to funnel veterans who have suffered traumatic brain injury to the VA whenever possible.

"This is not your grandfather’s VA,” the magazine quoted Cifu as saying. “This is a pretty amazing place. I’ve worked in academia for more than 20 years, and at the VA, we provide way better brain injury services than our university – and our university is extremely good.”

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