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New Study by Defense Department Reveals no Clear Way to Treat Victims of Traumatic Brain Injury

Posted on: November 16th, 2012 by Romanucci & Blandin

With all the advances in medicine and treatment, one would hope that great strides have been made for treating traumatic brain injury (TBI).  We were disappointed with the results of a recent study showing the techniques to restore brain-damaged people are elusive.

The Institute of Medicine at the U.S. State Department recently issued a 250-page report prepared by 14 experts, showing that treatments for TBI symptoms such as clouded thinking, inarticulate speech, poor planning, bad moods, difficulties holding a job, and family conflict, aren’t that simple.

The report – a scientific review of “cognitive rehabilitation therapy” – was prepared as a way to answer questions about how best to treat TBI victims who suffered their injuries on the battlefield. Since late last year, 196,000 men and women in the military have been diagnosed with TBI since the year 2000.

Early on, about 65 percent of the cases were mild (the military calls them concussions), but the rest were in the moderate to severe category when a person lost consciousness for more than 30 minutes and had mental confusion and memory loss lasting more than a day. Though the number of combat related brain injuries has risen steadily over the past 10 years, their severity has fallen. Today, about 80 percent are considered mild with a full recovery expected in most cases.

Though wars and football-related injuries have put brain injuries on the map, the problem is old. About 1.7 million Americans suffer a brain injury each year that requires medical treatment. Furthermore, about 52,000 die and about 125,000 suffer long-term consequences.

Therapists’ opinions vary on what cognitive rehabilitation therapy (CRT) means and how it should be addressed. There is no known CRT specialty with its own licensing system. Some believe that internal strategies can be used to remember things, while others favor external strategies like calendars, notebooks, and electronic devices. The panel that conducted the study found modest evidence, suggesting the usefulness of three months of week or twice-weekly meetings of brain-injury patients to work on social communications skills.

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