Deployment risk factors and postdeployment health profiles associated with traumatic brain injury in heavy drinking Veterans


Along with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is considered one of the "signature wounds" of combat operations in Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom [OIF]) and Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom [OEF]), but the role of mTBI in the clinical profiles of Veterans with other comorbid forms of postdeployment psychopathology is poorly understood. The current study explored the deployment risk and postdeployment health profiles of heavy drinking OIF and OEF Veterans as a function of mTBI. Sixty-nine heavy-drinking OIF/OEF Veterans were recruited through a Veterans' Affairs Medical Center and completed questionnaires and structured interviews assessing war-zone experiences, postdeployment drinking patterns, and PTSD symptoms. Veterans with positive mTBI screens and confirmed mTBI diagnoses endorsed higher rates of combat experiences, including direct and indirect killing, and met criteria for PTSD at a higher rate than Veterans without a history of mTBI. Both PTSD and combat experiences independently predicted screening positive for mTBI, whereas only combat experiences predicted receiving a confirmed mTBI diagnosis. mTBI was not associated with any dimension of alcohol use. These results support a growing body of literature linking mTBI with PTSD. © Association of Military Surgeons of the U.S. All rights reserved.

Publication Title

Military Medicine