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Battlefield brain: Unexplained symptoms and blast-related mild traumatic brain injury

By James M. Thompson, Kenneth C. Scott and Leslie Dubinsky


A 40-year-old male military Veteran* presents to a family physician with chronic symptoms that include recurrent headaches, dizziness, depression, memory problems, difficulty sleeping, and relationship troubles. He has not had a family physician since leaving the military 2 years ago. His Military Occupation Classification had been infantry. He explains that he had been deployed to war zones and that during a firefight several years earlier an enemy weapon exploded nearby, killing a fellow soldier and wounding others. He does not recall being injured, but remembers feeling a thump and that his “computer had to reboot.” This was followed by headaches and a few days of ringing in his ears. He also suffered a concussion during a military hockey game. He was assessed and treated for persistent headaches in the service and recalls that results of a head computed tomography scan were negative. Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) granted him a disability award for posttraumatic headache and provided certain treatment benefits. He took medication for the headaches. Following transition to civilian life he had difficulty holding jobs, but had been reluctant to seek help. He saw stories on television about blast-induced minor traumatic brain injury in Iraq and Afghanistan, and wonders if he “has MTBI.” Findings from his physical examination, bloodwork, and Mini Mental State Examination are normal, but his Montreal Cognitive Assessment score is 24, suggesting possible cognitive impairment. The physician organizes follow-up appointments and a neurology consultation. After reading about Canada’s military-aware operational stress injury (OSI) clinics in a medical journal, he refers the Veteran to a VAC district office for access to mental health assessment

Topics: Practice
Publisher: College of Family Physicians of Canada
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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