Deployment-related mild traumatic brain injury, mental health problems, and post-concussive symptoms in Canadian Armed Forces personnel.BMC Psychiatry. 2014 Nov 20; 14:325.BP
Up to 20% of US military personnel deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan experience mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) while deployed; up to one-third will experience persistent post-concussive symptoms (PCS). The objective of this study was to examine the epidemiology of deployment-related mTBI and its relationship to PCS and mental health problems (MHPs) in Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel.
Participants were 16153 personnel who underwent post-deployment screening (median =136 days after return) following deployment in support of the mission in Afghanistan from 2009 - 2012. The screening questionnaire assessed mTBI and other injuries while deployed, using the Brief Traumatic Brain Injury Screening Tool. Current MHPs and PCS were assessed using items from the Patient Health Questionnaire, the Patient Checklist for PTSD, and the Cognitive Failures Questionnaire. Log-binomial regression explored the association of mTBI, other injuries, and MHPs with PCS, using the presence of 3 or more of 7 PCS as the outcome. Results are expressed as adjusted prevalence ratios (PR).
mTBI while deployed was reported in 843 respondents (5.2%). Less severe forms of mTBI (associated only with having been dazed or confused or having "seen stars") predominated. Blast was reported as a mechanism of injury in half of those with mTBI. Multiple PCS were present in 21% of those with less severe forms of mTBI and in 27% of those with more severe forms of mTBI (i.e., mTBI associated with loss of consciousness or post-traumatic amnesia). After adjustment for confounding, mTBI had no statistically significant association with PCS relative to non-TBI injury. In contrast, MHPs had a strong association with reporting 3 or more PCS (adjusted prevalence ratio (PR) =7.77).
Deployment-related mTBI prevalence was lower than in many US reports; most of those who had had mTBI were free of multiple PCS. PCS was strongly associated with MHPs but not with mTBI. Careful assessment of MHPs is essential in personnel with a history of combat-related mTBI and PCS.