Traumatic brain injury during Operation Iraqi Freedom: findings from the United States Navy-Marine Corps Combat Trauma Registry

J Neurosurg. 2008 May;108(5):950-7. doi: 10.3171/JNS/2008/108/5/0950.


Object: The purpose of this study was to characterize traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) among military personnel (primarily Marines) during the second phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom from early in the medical care chain of evacuation through Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a Level 4 American hospital in Germany.

Methods: Data were obtained from the Navy-Marine Corps Combat Trauma Registry (CTR) and included both battle and nonbattle injuries. Follow-up of patients with TBI was conducted to examine the short-term medical and personnel-related effects of TBI among those surviving.

Results: Those injured in battle were more likely than those not injured in battle to have multiple TBI diagnoses, a greater number of all diagnoses, more severe TBIs, and to be medically evacuated. Intracranial injuries (for example, concussions) were the predominant type of TBI, although skull fractures and open head wounds were also seen. Improvised explosive devices were the most common cause of TBIs among battle injuries; blunt trauma and motor vehicle crashes were the most common causes among nonbattle injuries. Short-term follow-up of surviving patients with TBI indicated higher morbidity and medical utilization among the patients with more severe TBI, although mental conditions were higher among patients with milder TBI.

Conclusions: Data from the Navy-Marine Corps CTR provide useful information about combatants' TBIs identified early in the combat casualty process. Results may improve clinical care for those affected and suggest strategies for primary prevention. The CTR staff plans to conduct additional follow-up studies of this group of patients with TBI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Injuries / diagnosis
  • Brain Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Iraq War, 2003-2011*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Military Personnel*
  • Naval Medicine / statistics & numerical data*
  • Registries
  • United States