Traumatic Brain Injury Increases Risk of PTSD

Dewleen G. Baker, MD Department of Psychiatry School of Medicine, University of California, Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System Veterans Affairs Center of Excellence for Stress and Mental Health San Diego, CaliforniaMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dewleen G. Baker, MD
Department of Psychiatry
School of Medicine, University of California,
Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System
Veterans Affairs Center of Excellence for Stress and Mental Health
San Diego, California

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Baker: Pre-deployment psychiatric symptoms, combat intensity, and traumatic brain injury (TBI) were significant predictors of post-deployment PTSD symptom severity. However, the strongest predictor was deployment-related TBI; mild TBI increased symptom scores by 23%, and moderate to severe injuries increased scores by 71%.
MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Dr. Baker: Prior research has shown that symptoms from TBI and PTSD may overlap considerably, and that the two disorders may often co-occur in combat veterans. Our study takes these associations one step further and suggests that TBI may be an important risk factor for PTSD.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Baker: Based on our findings, clinicians should be alerted to the likelihood that individuals who have sustained deployment-related brain injuries may be at higher risk for PTSD, and that their patients with PTSD may have had had significant head injury events that may impact their functioning and recovery. Patients should be alerted to report both events, both emotional traumas and head injury to their physician, as well as persistent symptoms, and to work closely with their clinicians.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Baker: Future research will be important in order to discern causes of the increase in PTSD symptoms in combatants with, versus those with deployment-related TBI. It is unknown to what extent factors, such as the emotional salience of the head injury event or neuronal damage associated with the head injury event contribute to the higher rates of post-deployment PTSD. Future research that includes high-resolution neuroimaging is needed to determine whether the head injury causes persistent neural tissue damage that impedes emotional recovery from emotionally stressful events.

Citation:

Yurgil KA, Barkauskas DA, Vasterling JJ, et al. Association Between Traumatic Brain Injury and Risk of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Active-Duty Marines. JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;():-. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.3080.