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Traumatic Brain Injuries: Questions Over Care For British Personnel

A neuroscientist has told Forces News that British personnel with traumatic brain injuries are being "managed" differently to US patients.

The rate of recognition for British military personnel who suffer traumatic brain injuries is not at the same level experienced by their US counterparts, a scientist has warned.

Dr William Stewart, professor of neuroscience at Glasgow University, said the proportion of cases in the US being "managed and appropriately look[ed] after" is higher than in the UK.

He added: "We know these personnel are employed in the same theatre so we expect the rates to be much the same, but they don't appear to be."

Dr Stewart added there are also differences in diagnosis rates, with "considerably more" personnel in North America being "recognised with brain injury" than in the UK.

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is sudden damage to the brain caused by a blow or jolt to the head.

The result can range from a mild concussion to severe and permanent brain damage.

Car crashes and sports injuries are common causes but there is growing concern about the impact of blasts and explosions on military personnel.

Dr Stewart said: "Many of these milder forms of injuries actually can go on to be prolonged, symptomatic problems.

"If that's things like visual disturbance, problems with thinking or thought processes, that's not the kind of thing you want to be returning your frontline personnel to activities [with] if they're having difficulties focusing, concentrating and seeing properly, so I think it's important to be able to recognise that and manage it properly."

Stanford Hall - DNRC.
The £300 million Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Stanford Hall near Loughborough helps treat those suffering with traumatic brain injuries.

The US Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center says that more than 400,000 troops have ­suffered from a TBI in the past 20 years.

Around 180,000 UK troops have served in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 17 years, many completing ­multiple tours.

But the British Ministry of Defence (MOD) says just 737 of them have been diagnosed with the condition during that time period.

The Government's Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre runs a three-week inpatient service for sufferers.

However, service personnel in the US can get brain scans and hormone treatment to repair damaged brain tissue.

The news comes after The Daily Mirror claimed many military personnel in the UK were being misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all, and that US personnel were receiving better treatment.

The MOD said: "We have a dedicated treatment programme for traumatic brain injuries and are leading research into the diagnosis, management and rehabilitation of patients."

Members of the Commons Defence Select Committee are due to hear more evidence on the issue in September.