Posttraumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury in current military populations: a critical analysis

J Am Psychiatr Nurses Assoc. 2012 Sep-Oct;18(5):278-98. doi: 10.1177/1078390312460578.


Background: The use of unconventional weaponry combined with decreased mortality rates and servicemembers being exposed to intense ground combat during multiple deployments has increased the risk of servicemembers living with the consequences of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and combat operational stress.

Objective: The purpose of this article is to perform a critical analysis of the literature to identify current rates of comorbid posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and TBI in military and veteran populations who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan and their combined effects on persistent postconcussive symptoms.

Design: A search of the literature with military and veteran populations published after 2001 in Pubmed, OVID/Medline, Cochran Database, Embase, Scopus, CINAHL, and PsychInfo was conducted using keywords.

Results: Twenty studies met inclusion criteria. The literature search yielded mixed results for rates of PTSD, TBI, and comorbid conditions.

Conclusions: There is some evidence that comorbid PTSD and TBI result in greater reports of postconcussive symptomology than either condition alone. Limitations include lack of consistency of measurements, sampling biases, and lack of experimental design, and these warrant further exploration. Future research is needed to decrease variability in study findings and elucidate relationships between these disorders and their effects on persistent postconcussive symptomology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Afghan Campaign 2001-
  • Brain Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Brain Injuries / psychology*
  • Combat Disorders / epidemiology
  • Combat Disorders / psychology
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iraq War, 2003-2011
  • Male
  • Military Personnel / psychology*
  • Military Personnel / statistics & numerical data
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Veterans / psychology*
  • Veterans / statistics & numerical data