Treating traumatic brain injury

    Defense Department officials say they are stepping up their efforts to provide “best-in-class” treatment for traumatic brain injuries. Philadelphia rehabilitation hospital would like to get involved in providing care.

    As the Iraq War marks its sixth anniversary, the military is investing in research and better treatments for Traumatic Brain Injuries. Defense Department officials estimate that between 10 and 20 percent of soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan suffered traumatic brain injury. Local treatment facilities would like to be involved in their treatment- Maiken Scott reports from WHYY’s Behavioral Health desk:

    The majority of brain injuries suffered by soldiers is considered mild – meaning a mild concussion. But more severe traumatic brain injuries can have long-term implications and affect people’s cognition and mental health. People may have trouble with their short-term memory, experience depression, or changes in their general mood and disposition.

    Dr. James Kelly of the Defense Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury says in addition to more research and better access to care, getting soldiers to actually seek treatment is also important:

    Kelly: To de-stigmatize the psychological components of these injuries and the effects of war. We know now we need to have people come forward and say “I have a problem here, let me get help.”

    At Philadelphia’s Magee Rehabilitation Hospital, Dr. Guy Fried would like to see his center more involved in the treatment of soldiers and vets. Fried says Magee is government certified to provide these services, and can draw on years of experience in the field:

    Fried:
    Certainly the VA has some excellent services but so does Magee and the private sector. So I think that what we have to offer is certainly an advantage in that we have been doing this for many many years and we have some very skilled and qualified therapists and physicians to work with the veterans.

    So far, Magee has seen only a few vets for treatment – but Dr. James Kelly says in the future, the Defense Department will send veterans to civilian facilities like Magee more often to make treatment more accessible.

    Kelly:
    As those partners for the military and VA come on board and we understand where they are and what services they provide that are specific to the needs of the people in that area, and will count on them to do exactly that.

    Listen to the radio report:

    [audio:sci20090319brain.mp3]

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