A study was recently conducted by various veteran, psychiatry and other health organizations out of San Francisco, regarding the correlation between TBIs (particularly mild ones), and the likelihood they have on the onset of dementia.
Their conclusion reads as such:
In this cohort study of more than 350 000 veterans, even mild TBI without LOC was associated with more than a 2-fold increase in the risk of dementia diagnosis. Studies of strategies to determine mechanisms, prevention, and treatment of TBI-related dementia in veterans are urgently needed.”
TBIs are an emerging science, and the ability to document combat TBIs upon their onset, keep track of their symptoms as they either progress or begin to heal, and record all relevant data — these steps have all been refined over the last couple of decades during the Global War on Terror, though there is still a long ways to go.
This study took patients who had suffered from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) who had been deployed to Afghanistan and/or Iraq, drawing from the Comprehensive TBI Evaluation database. The focus was on mild TBIs, classified as either mild without LOC (loss of consciousness), mild with LOC, or mild with LOC unknown. For those wondering, yes, it is possible to lose consciousness from a blast and still only suffer what is classified as a mild TBI.
Over 350,000 veterans were involved, of varying gender and race. Over time, 2.6% of the veterans who had not suffered a TBI developed dementia. In total, 6.1% of those who had suffered a TBI developed dementia, a significant and glaring increase.
However, simple statistics on the face of studies like this can be misleading. There are always unknown factors that need to be considered so people aren’t immediately jumping into conclusions. After its initial findings, the study was adjusted to account for “demographics and medical and psychiatric commodities, adjusted hazard ratios for dementia” — all factors that could also affect rates of dementia onset.
After the adjustments, they still found that those who had suffered TBIs were over twice as likely to develop dementia. This predictably increased as the TBIs grew worse in severity.
There is no known cure for dementia. Though there are various ways to treat and medicate, most of them are moderate at best and the most effective efforts tend to lie in supporting the patient as the brain disease progresses and improving their quality of life as best as possible.
This is yet another push forward in the emerging field of traumatic brain injuries. This is a rapidly emerging field exploring wounds that have largely gone untreated throughout history, but have most likely had devastating effects. With the increased usage of explosives in war, bTBIs (blast traumatic brain injuries) have increased significantly as well, which is probably one of the main reasons the field has only now begun to emerge.
Featured image courtesy of the USAF.