Military veterans who have been exposed to blasts from bombs or grenades may still have brain damage even if they have no symptoms, according to a study published this month in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation.
Researchers with Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C., studied 45 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, dividing them into three groups – those who had been exposed to a blast and had symptoms of traumatic brain injury, those who had been exposed to a blast but showed no symptoms of brain injury, and those who were not exposed to a blast. The veterans then received brain scans and mental assessments.
Researchers found that veterans who had been exposed to blasts but did not have symptoms of traumatic brain injury still had brain damage similar to the veterans who did have symptoms of brain injury.
“Similar to sports injuries, people near an explosion assume that if they don’t have clear symptoms — losing consciousness, blurred vision, headaches — they haven’t had injury to the brain,” said study senior author Dr. Rajendra Morey, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C.
Researchers said that the study’s findings are important because they show that even if someone doesn’t have symptoms, there may still be damage to the brain. As a result, they recommend that doctors treating veterans should take into account a patient’s exposure to blasts whether or not they show signs of brain injury. The researchers also noted that larger studies are needed to support the findings of this study.