Neuropsychological outcomes of mild traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression in Iraq-deployed US Army soldiers

Jennifer J Vasterling, Kevin Brailey, Susan P Proctor, Robert Kane, Timothy Heeren, Molly Franz
British Journal of Psychiatry 2012, 201 (3): 186-92

BACKGROUND: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a concern of contemporary military deployments. Whether milder TBI leads to enduring impairment remains controversial.

AIMS: To determine the influence of deployment TBI, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression symptoms on neuropsychological and functional outcomes.

METHOD: A sample of 760 US Army soldiers were assessed pre- and post-deployment. Outcomes included neuropsychological performances and subjective functional impairment.

RESULTS: In total, 9% of the participants reported (predominantly mild) TBI with loss of consciousness between pre- and post-deployment. At post-deployment, 17.6% of individuals with TBI screened positive for PTSD and 31.3% screened positive for depression. Before and after adjustment for psychiatric symptoms, TBI was significantly associated only with functional impairment. Both PTSD and depression symptoms adjusted for TBI were significantly associated with several neuropsychological performance deficits and functional impairment.

CONCLUSIONS: Milder TBI reported by deployed service members typically has limited lasting neuropsychological consequences; PTSD and depression are associated with more enduring cognitive compromise.

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