TBI Misdiagnoses?

Thursday - 4/16/2009, 3:42pm EDT

Chris Dorobek

As heard on sister station WTOP

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FederalNewsRadio has been telling you about the military's efforts to confront issues of traumatic brain injury among military personnel.

Now it appears that there could be a disconnect over the symptoms of "traumatic brain injury."

Q: What's the disconnect?

A: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) has become the signature wound of the war.

Doctors have found that personnel returning from battle suffer from issues that might be directly related to TBI, so last year the Pentagon started screening everyone returning from battle for TBI.

The problem, however, is that those symptoms of TBI -- not sleeping, anxiety, drug use, headaches, lack of appetite -- are also symptoms of things like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression or other mental health issues.

Q: So they could be misdiagnosed?

A: That's the concern.

Two Army mental health researchers have published an article that says the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense are overemphasizing mild traumatic brain injury among combat personnel at the expense of these other medical problems.

USA Today got its hands on the study, which appears in the New England Journal of Medicine, which calls for the military to change the way they handle the screening of soldiers.

They say, instead of screening for TBI, they should be screening for those symptoms, then figure out if the symptoms are a result of a brain injury, or some other problem.

What does the Army say about this?

A: The study has convinced the Army's surgeon general, Eric Schoomaker, that the screening SHOULD be changed.

But critics are worried that some troops might slip through the cracks and not get the care they need.

A spokesman for the Pentagon's health affairs office says the recommendations are being reviewed.