By Tracey-Jean SantoroMarch 25, 2014
FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. (March 25, 2014) -- Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, has been called the "signature wound" of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Injuries the Soldiers receive downrange can originate from improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, gun blasts, accidents and equipment failure. Many military personnel have experienced multiple deployments due to the length of war, translating into multiple exposures to potential TBI events.
In garrison, a TBI can occur from a blow to the head during sports activities or combatives training, vehicle accidents and falls. Throughout the Department of Defense, 294,172 service members have been diagnosed with a TBI within garrison and the deployed setting from 2000 -- 2013. Of these, 83 percent have been classified as mild TBIs, also known as concussions.
Fort Huachuca is home to a Level 4 TBI Program, providing outpatient care to Soldiers with mild traumatic brain injuries occurring while deployed and in garrison. The Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center or RWBAHC, TBI team consists of Dr. Richard LaMacchia, treating neuropsychologist; Tracey-Jean Santoro, psychology technician; and Philip Sloss, nurse case manager.
The mission of the TBI team is to assess and evaluate physical, cognitive and emotional or behavioral symptoms to optimize care, improve outcomes and reduce disability using a patient-centered approach to promote recovery. Service members meeting certain criteria are referred to the TBI team. By detailing the injury events and reviewing the service member's medical history, the team develops as accurate a history as possible.
Although a few Soldiers may be referred immediately following a potentially concussive event, most Soldiers are referred to the RWBAHC TBI Program after continuing to experience symptoms of a traumatic brain injury sometime in the past. Typical symptoms include headaches, short-term memory problems, irritability, difficulty sleeping, balance, vision, hearing and cognitive problems, and possible Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. The TBI team develops an individual plan of care for each Soldier to ensure he or she will receive quality care in a timely and efficient manner.
The plan of care developed for each Soldier is unique, and the process of achieving its goals may take a few months or longer. Typical treatment goals include reduction of headache frequency and intensity, faster onset and longer length of sleep, improved short-term memory and cognitive functioning, better balance, vision, hearing, and reduction of PTSD symptoms. The TBI team works with a variety of disciplines within both RWBAHC and the community setting, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, optometry, behavioral health, neurology, and sleep labs.