Posttraumatic stress symptoms in OIF/OEF service members with blast-related and non-blast-related mild TBI

Jan E Kennedy, Felix O Leal, Jeffrey D Lewis, Maren A Cullen, Ricardo R Amador
NeuroRehabilitation 2010, 26 (3): 223-31

PURPOSE: To examine the proportion and severity of stress-related symptoms in U.S. service members with mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI) received during deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) or Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). Stress-related symptoms reported by service members with mTBI from explosive munitions are compared to symptoms reported by those with mTBI received from other mechanisms (i.e. falls, motor vehicle accidents).

METHODS: Posttraumatic stress, as measured by scores on the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist (PCL-C), for a sample of 586 OIF/OEF service members with blast-related mTBI was compared to a sample of 138 OIF/OEF service members with non-blast mTBI selected from retrospective review of research records.

RESULTS: Re-experiencing symptoms such as flashbacks and nightmares were higher for the blast mTBI group than for the non-blast mTBI group. Symptoms on other PTSD clusters and total score did not significantly differ between groups. Equivalent proportions of the blast and non-blast groups endorsed severe PTSD symptoms, with total PCL-C scores greater than or equal to 50.

CONCLUSIONS: Consistent with prior reports, high levels of posttraumatic stress symptoms occur in a substantial proportion of service members who experienced deployment-related blast and non-blast mTBI. Results suggest that the psychological rehabilitation of OIF/OEF service members with mTBI from explosive blast should include particular attention to addressing re-experiencing symptoms.

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