Air Evacuation of Wounded Troops May Worsen Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of the leading causes of death and veteran’s disability among servicemembers stationed overseas in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. Within the past 15 years, more than 330,000 cases of TBI have been reported among U.S. soldiers.

Typically, soldiers who suffer head trauma in combat are evacuated by air out of the battle zone to places where better treatment can be provided. In many cases, soldiers were flown to hospitals in Europe and the U.S. to undergo further treatment once stabilized. However, new research shows that air transport may actually increase the severity of the brain damage done to these soldiers.

Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine utilized rat models to investigate the effects of air pressure changes on a patient who suffered from TBI. Some rats were exposed to identical conditions as an airlifted soldier would, low air pressure supplemented with partial or 100 percent extra oxygen concentration, and others were exposed to normal air pressure with supplemental oxygen.

The study found that the rats exposed to low air pressure with some supplemental oxygen showed decreased long-term cognitive function, more chronic brain inflammation, and higher rates of brain tissue loss. The rats in the simulation with 100 percent oxygen concentration showed the worst cognitive impairments.

The research team is now cautioning military officials about early air evacuation and urging doctors to weigh the benefits against the risk factors discovered in the study.

Traumatic Brain Injury Can Cause Permanent Disability – You May Qualify for Veteran’s Disability Benefits

If you or a loved one suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving in the U.S. military, it may qualify for veteran’s disability benefits. Before you file your claim with the VA, or if you have been denied disability benefits, call us at 855-855-8992 or contact us online to get help with your case.