Findings could have major implications for treatment of military injuries
UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND SCHOOL OF MEDICINE
November 30, 2015
About a quarter of all injured soldiers evacuated from Afghanistan and Iraq have suffered head injuries.Baltimore, MD, November 30, 2015--Over the past 15 years, more than 330,000 U.S. soldiers have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). It is one of the leading causes of death and disability connected to the country's recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many of these patients were evacuated by air from these countries to Europe and the U.S. for further treatment. In general, these patients were flown quickly to hospitals outside the battle zone, where more extensive treatment was available.
But now a new study by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine has found evidence that such air evacuations may pose a significant added risk, potentially causing more damage to already injured brains. The study is the first to suggest that air evacuation may be hazardous for TBI patients. The study was published today in the Journal of Neurotrauma.
"This research shows that exposure to reduced barometric pressure, as occurs on military planes used for evacuation, substantially worsens neurological function and increases brain cell loss after experimental TBI - even when oxygen levels are kept in the normal range. It suggests that we need to carefully re-evaluate the cost-benefit of air transport in the first days after injury," said lead researcher Alan Faden, MD, the David S. Brown Professor in Trauma in the Departments of Anesthesiology, Anatomy and Neurobiology, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, and director, Shock, Trauma and Anesthesiology Research Center (STAR) as well as the National Study Center for Trauma and Emergency Medical Services.
The research was funded by the U.S. Air Force.
"This research has the potential to connect bench to bedside in an important, potentially lifesaving way," said Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, who is also Vice President of Medical Affairs, the University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko Bowers Distinguished Professor. "Dr. Faden is part of an impressive group of scientists at the School who are helping to unlock the mysteries of the brain."
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