Veterans receiving treatment for traumatic brain injuries at a new health and wellness center in Martinez, California, are helping researchers develop new ways to treat both military and civilian patients who suffer from them.
About 1.7 million Americans per year suffer brain injuries from car crashes, falls and other accidents, and about three-fourths of those injuries come with a concussion. Doctors at the brain health center are hopeful their work with military veterans, who more likely suffered injuries from roadside bombs or combat, will improve overall treatment of brain injuries. Advanced research could also benefit those suffering from neurological diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.
Some researchers at the brain health center are focusing on a more accurate way to spot abnormalities in brain tissue that can't always be seen in an MRI. They're also developing a computer-based test to better measure cognitive ability, another way to diagnose a TBI.
Even mild TBIs can cause problems such as headaches, memory loss, personality changes and depression. But there's more to treating a brain injury than offering medication for the symptoms. A neurology professor at the center is training vets on new methods to accomplish both everyday and complex tasks. Some are using computer gaming to develop exercises TBI patients can do at home to improve their cognitive skills.
The research and the progress made by patients at the health center are encouraging, but there's much more that needs to be done. With the influx of veterans returning from overseas, there are huge gaps in rehabilitation and long-term care -- namely, a shortage of doctors and mental health professionals. For these and other reasons, many vets and civilians with TBI continue to go undiagnosed or untreated. And for some, getting that treatment can be expensive.
Those who suffered a brain injury in an accident caused by someone else's negligence may be eligible for financial compensation, however. Rather than put off your treatment, talk to your doctor about your health recovery, and consider meeting with a personal injury attorney about who might be responsible for covering it.
Source: The Sacramento Bee, "Steep climb for vets with brain injuries," Foon Rhee, March 11, 2012
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