Soldiers serving in Iraq deal with high rates of traumatic head injuries. The injuries arise when bomb blasts cause pressure waves. If a soldier is standing nearby when the bomb explodes, the pressure can damage the soldier’s brain as if his or her head struck an object. This type of injury shows no outward signs of injury, such as a bump or bruise. As a result, many soldiers do not receive proper medical treatment because of incomplete and incorrect diagnoses.
Brain Injury Rates Increasing
The rising instances of brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan result from greater numbers of soldiers patrolling on foot and more frequent patrols. Without the protection of tanks or armored vehicles, soldiers are much more likely to suffer injuries from nearby blasts.
Bomb explosions in narrow alleys can focus and direct pressure waves to longer distances. Soldiers standing at the opening of an alley could suffer injuries from even a small blast. A soldier’s helmet gives little protection when it comes to pressure waves. The curve of the helmet can redirect the pressure from a blow to the head, but can do little to stop a solid wall of pressure waves.
Danger of Severe Damage without Proper Diagnosis
In many cases, soldiers only suffer slight concussions from bomb blasts. The medical staff on the battlefield must rely on the soldier’s behavior to guess how bad the damage might be. In many cases, brain injured soldiers do not show symptoms right away, instead developing headaches and dizziness days later. A minor brain injury can immediately become severe if the soldier experiences a second bomb blast before the original injury is diagnosed.
The brain has certain defenses that protect it following concussion. Immediately after the injury, chemical changes prevent injuries from causing further damage to other parts of the brain. Unless the brain has time to heal first, these protective mechanisms cannot do their jobs. Many soldiers return to patrol after an undiagnosed head injury, putting them at higher risk for severe brain injury or death.
MRI Units Coming to the Front
Military doctors hope that bringing MRI machines to the front lines of Iraq and Afghanistan will help them diagnose soldiers more accurately. The MRI should show doctors even the smallest brain injury, allowing them to order the best treatment for brain injuries, which is rest. Even if the soldier is not showing any signs of injury, the MRI will clearly show whether brain tissue was damaged.
Better Decisions with MRI Diagnosis
Once the doctors have these powerful tools on the front lines, they will be able to tell which soldiers are ready to return to patrol and which soldiers need more rest. Keeping injured soldiers out of harm’s way until they heal should reduce the number and severity of brain injuries in these battle zones.
If you or someone you love suffered a severe brain injury because of misdiagnosis or another cause, contact our offices right away. Our trained legal staff can meet with you free of charge and help you decide what to do next.