Primary objective: To gain a better understanding of the complex relationship between combat deployment-related mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and persistent post-concussive symptoms (PPCSs), taking into consideration a wide range of potentially mediating and confounding factors.
Research design: Cross-sectional.
Methods and procedures: Subjects were 613 U. S. military Veterans and Service Members who served during operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, or New Dawn (OEF/OIF/OND) and completed a structured interview of mental disorders and a battery of questionnaires. Hierarchical binary logistic regression analyses were used to test the hypotheses.
Main outcomes and results: After accounting for mental disorders, lifetime mTBIs outside of OEF/OIF/OND deployment, medical conditions, and injury/demographic characteristics, deployment-related mTBI continued to be associated with several PPCSs (headaches, sleep disturbance, and difficulty making decisions). Deployment-related mTBI was also associated with two symptoms not normally associated with mTBI (nausea/upset stomach and numbness/tingling).
Conclusions: After adjusting for a wide range of factors, OEF/OIF/OND deployment-related mTBI was still associated with PPCSs on average 10 years after the injury. These findings suggest that mTBI sustained during OEF/OIF/OND deployment may have enduring negative health effects. More studies are needed that prospectively and longitudinally track health and mental health outcomes after TBI.
Keywords: Brain concussion; Veterans; blast injuries; brain injuries; mental health; stress disorders; traumatic.