Diagnosing Military Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) have returned to the forefront of military healthcare discussions in 2020. In January, a ballistic missile attack on Al Asad Air Base in Iraq initially reported no injuries. As more time passed, injuries began to be reported. The injuries were not visible or immediately identified. They were TBIs. To date, 110 service members have been diagnosed with a TBI as a result of that January attack. That’s because diagnosing a TBI isn’t as simple as other diagnoses.

In many cases, diagnosing a TBI takes time. Because of the nature of the injury, it’s not as simple as diagnosing a broken bone or visually identifying a cut, or the source of bleeding from a wound. Some brain injuries don’t make themselves apparent immediately upon being sustained. Because of this, it’s easy for brain injuries to go unnoticed and undiagnosed until symptoms present themselves. And those symptoms can be debilitating at times.

The current method for diagnosing a TBI in military service members is called Military Acute Concussion Evaluation 2 (MACE 2). MACE 2 is a multimodal tool that helps diagnose brain injuries, and is most effective when applied in close proximity to the time of the event/possible injury. MACE 2 takes details of the event and contains a cognitive test, neurological text, and a vestibular/ocular-motor screening, as well as other observed symptoms, and history of brain injury, if any.

Between 2000 and Q3 of 2019, 413,868 TBIs have been diagnosed according to the Department of Defense. In 2019, without Q4 numbers, there were over 15,000 new cases of TBI diagnosed. 2018 was the first year since 2011 where the number of TBIs increased year over year, and 2019 is on track to surpass the 2018 numbers.

Treating TBIs is another unique challenge of its own but the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund is working to make treatments more accessible and comprehensive for service members who have sustained a TBI. So far, we have constructed eight Intrepid Spirit Centers specially equipped to treat the symptoms of TBI and post-traumatic stress (PTS). These centers have the capacity to treat thousands of patients each year. As an example, the Intrepid Spirit Center at Fort Bragg, NC treated more than 5,000 patients in 2019 alone.

Intrepid Spirit Centers are satellites of our National Intrepid Center of Excellence at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, which is leading the way in treatments for TBI and PTS. The ninth center is currently under construction and one more Intrepid Spirit Center is planned. The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund is a publicly funded non-profit organization, so without contributions from the public, these centers cannot be completed. Please consider supporting the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund’s mission to heal our heroes today with a donation




Posted on March 2 2020 in Blog

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