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For Release: May 9, 2008
Contact: DMS Communications 603-650-1492

Brain Injury Screening Collaborative Launched

Hanover, N.H.—Dartmouth Medical School and the Maine Army National Guard have joined to launch a two-tiered Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI) Program involving both state-of-the-art screening and a system of integrated care to meet the needs of returning soldiers through cooperation between private and public community-based providers.

The strategic collaboration among Dartmouth Medical School, the Maine Army National Guard, ImPACT Applications, Inc. and the Maine Brain Injury Partnership Project will work toward a system of care for Maine service members that is integrated among community based health and mental health providers, as well as community and military resources.

The program is funded by the Maine Health Access Foundation's integrated care initiative. It is directed by Elizabeth Pearson, senior research associate at the Hood Center for Children and Families of Dartmouth Medical School, who worked in Maine building capacity to provide comprehensive care coordination within primary care practices.

This collaborative project will help maximize available resources...so that all of our service members have the highest rate of recovery from mild traumatic brain injury.

—Elizabeth Pearson

"There is a lot of excellent work going on in Maine right now that enhances collaboration across existing systems of care," Pearson said. "This collaborative project will help maximize available resources, including an existing and validated screening program, so that all of our service members have the highest rate of recovery from mild traumatic brain injury."

The current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have heightened interest in mTBI. Roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are the signature weapon in these conflicts and, as a result, many service members are experiencing concussive brain injuries. Accurate identification of these injuries is important for appropriate treatment.

A series of educational workshops is planned that will increase health care providers' ability to identify and appropriately care for mTBI injuries, respond to the individual's identified needs and priorities, and address the interrelated domains of health, mental health and psychosocial support. The first training workshops are June 11 at University of Maine, Orono and June 12 at Maine Medical Center.

A key feature of the program centers on the pre- and post-deployment screening for mTBI, accomplished through ImPACTTM, a computer program that can be administered by non-clinical personnel with minimal training and a validated instrument that is widely used among professional sports teams to manage sports-related concussions. In November 2007, all Maine National Guard troops began the process of receiving ImPACTTM screening before and after deployment to war zones.

The signs of mTBI may be confused with the psychological response of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. An individual may experience both conditions and there may be some overlap of symptoms such as sleep issues, fatigue and irritability. Other symptoms such as dizziness, visual blurring, balance impairment, sensitivity to light and noise are associated with mTBI rather than PTSD. "We need to help identify the cause of symptoms, and this screening program will enable the National Guard medical team to more effectively screen service members for appropriate diagnostic procedures and treatment," says Pearson.

"The percentage of American troops who are surviving battle wounds has risen dramatically, which is great news, but which does come with an associated set of problems," says Lt. Colonel Patrick Tangney, MD, the Maine Army National Guard state surgeon. "Substantial advances in battlefield armor and medical treatment means that more people are surviving injuries that would have been far more serious in previous conflicts. The number of US soldiers sustaining some sort of brain injury in combat is high, but not always easily detected. Maine is the first in the nation to use this model of screening to ensure that our returning soldiers are getting the care they need, and the right care, every time," says Tangney.

For more information about the Maine mTBI program, or registration for the June workshops, contact Elizabeth Pearson at Dartmouth Medical School, (603) 653-1442.

-DMS-

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