Many soldiers who experienced mild head trauma or a blast exposure while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan are returning to the United States with headaches, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 61st Annual Meeting in Seattle, April 25 to May 2, 2009.
The study, conducted at Fort Lewis, WA, involved 978 U.S. Army soldiers returning from Iraq or Afghanistan in 2008. All had experienced a concussion, head injury or blast exposure while deployed.
Nearly 98 percent of the soldiers reported having headaches during the last three months of their deployment.
The headaches started within one week of the traumatic brain injury for 37 percent of the soldiers, and within one to four weeks for 20 percent. Among the soldiers whose headaches started within a week of the injury, 60 percent had migraine-like headaches and 40 percent had headaches that interfered with their ability to do their daily activities. Thirty percent had headaches for 15 or more days each month.
"Mild traumatic brain injury is occurring in 15 to 25 percent of soldiers deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan," said study author Brett J. Theeler, MD, of Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, WA, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "The associated headaches can be a source of impaired occupational functioning.
These findings should alert health care providers, especially those affiliated with the military or veteran health care systems, to the need to identify and properly treat headache among soldiers."
The study was supported by the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences through a grant from the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program.
The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 21,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as multiple sclerosis, restless legs syndrome, Alzheimer's disease, narcolepsy, and stroke.