Deploying Soldiers Take Test to Help ID Traumatic Brain Injuries
December 21, 2007
The Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metric (ANAM), administered before, during and after deployments, helps identify Soldiers suffering from traumatic brain injury.
More than 12,000 Soldiers at Fort Campbell, Ky., recently completed the computer program that measures reaction times to simple math equations, pattern identification and matching exercises.
The testing establishes an objective measurement, a baseline of someone's neurocognitive function. During deployment, medical providers can continuously monitor the cognitive ability of Soldiers as they are exposed to explosions and shockwaves.
"The testing is just one piece of the puzzle. We're never going to treat someone based on the test results alone," said LTC Mark McGrail, 101st Airborne Division surgeon.
The testing system has been in development and testing stages for many years.
"We didn't have a good appreciation for just how much of this TBI we would see," said McGrail.
Previous research on concussions and mild brain injuries was limited to sports medicine and direct-blow trauma, he said. Pressure waves from improvised explosive devices produce a different kind of head injury.
"That's the kind of thing that doesn't exist in the sports medicine literature, and nobody has ever really looked at it because there isn't really anything to mimic that in life," said McGrail.
McGrail said without an objective baseline for diagnosis doctors depend on self reporting of TBI, but many Soldiers won't tell someone if they have a problem.
"They don't want to get taken out of the fight; they don't want to look like they're weak; whatever their reason, they're not going to tell you. Now we have an objective measurement," he said.
The ability to diagnose TBI in theater will help keep the Soldier from sustaining further brain injury in future combat operations.
"It's that cumulative effect that can cause long-term problems," McGrail said.
The 101st Airborne is the first group to use the test on such a large scale, but its use is expected to quickly spread to other organizations.
McGrail said the Army has a large investment in TBI programs to aid both diagnosis and prevention.
"It tells people that we will be at the front, taking care of troops," he said.