01 November 2007

Landstuhl hospital proposes new TBI center

This is good news:
LANDSTUHL, Germany — Landstuhl Regional Medical Center wants to hire 48 new employees to ramp up treatmentof traumatic brain injuries, which affect up to 30 percent of servicemembers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hospital officials submitted the plan to develop an autonomous brain injury center to Europe Regional Medical Command last week. If approved, plans for the center would require authorization from the Army Surgeon General before moving forward.

Considered one of the hallmark injuries of the Iraq war, traumatic brain injury, or TBI, disrupts normal brain function and typically is caused by a blow or jolt to the head. Depression, anxiety, aggressive behavior and cognitive issues such as trouble with short-term memory and concentration are among the most common side effects.

The planned TBI center would focus on developing better ways to treat, diagnose and screen for TBI. The research it yields also could shape the development of new protective gear, vehicles and combat operations procedures for troops who have been exposed to blasts but are considered well enough to stay downrange.

“We hope to gather data that will allow us to advise on policies that will guide the commanders on the appropriate employment of their troops,” said Army Dr. (Col.) Stephen Flaherty, chief of the hospital’s trauma center. “The units themselves have made changes in how they employ their forces,” though there are no military-wide guidelines.

Landstuhl began screening every patient coming in from Iraq and Afghanistan for TBI in May 2006 after doctors noticed that many of them had inexplicable problems that later were diagnosed as TBI.

“We started to say we need to look at people in a systematic fashion,” Flaherty said.

Since then, 23 percent of the 10,000 patients screened for TBI have tested positive. About 98 percent of those have “mild” TBI, which by definition cannot be detected with most brain scanning technology. (...)

Though most patients only stay at Landstuhl for a short-time, the hospital is the gateway to medical care for all combat casualties and therefore a logical place to house a comprehensive TBI center, he said.

It is unclear whether patients would stay longer at Landstuhl if the center is approved.

Army Col. Brian Lein, Landstuhl commander, said he expects to receive word on the proposal by the end of the year.

No comments: