Demonstration of a military acute concussion assessment
Lt. Col. Margaret Swanberg checks the pupils of Spc. Michael Woywood while demonstrating a military acute concussion evaluation at Forward Operating Base Hammer in Iraq.

Medics and doctors maintain the health and safety of Soldiers. Lt. Col. Margaret Swanberg, the only Army neurologist deployed to Iraq, brings especially important skills to the combat theater.

Roadside-bomb explosions have been a leading cause of traumatic brain injuries that can vary from compression and bruising of the brain to damage to the nerves that send signals from the brain to the rest of the body.

Swanberg serves as the officer in charge of the Sgt. Robertson Aid Station at Forward Operating Base Hammer. Her dedication to the job benefits Soldiers all over Iraq, as she trains medics throughout the country on military acute concussion evaluation, or MACE.

The MACE technique allows medics and doctors to tell whether Soldiers show signs of traumatic brain injuries by asking a series of questions. The questions test long-term and short-term memory, as well as basic motor functions.

"The symptoms [of traumatic brain injuries] include headaches, dizziness, ringing in the ears and the 'thousand yard stare,'" Swanberg said. "These are all indicators that the Soldier could be the victim of a traumatic brain injury, and that person should be screened."

For six years before her deployment, Swanberg worked as a behavioral neurologist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., treating patients who have Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

Being the only Army neurologist in the country is a huge responsibility, but Swanberg said she feels more than up to the task.

"I provide consultation [to unit medics and doctors] through e-mail and in person, and if need be, I am able to fly to Baghdad and even to the [forward operating bases] to evaluate and treat the Soldiers," Swanberg said. "Without having a neurologist in country, the Soldiers would have to be sent back to our medical facilities in Kuwait or even Germany for treatment. That can take a month or longer to get the Soldier back in his unit."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16