IEDs continue to cause severe long-term damage to blast survivors

Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are still responsible for a high number of casualties in Afghanistan, with insurgents targeting soldiers in their attempt to cause death and long-term serious injury.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) related to IED incidents pose a major problem for military doctors looking to get soldiers back on their feet quickly.  Some troops remain on active duty and continue their tour, while others need months – or even years -- of medical support. 

As soldiers return home from the battlefield in Afghanistan, they may switch back to the civilian sector before reporting any problems.

Previously published research noted an IED blast created a wavefront that pushes pressure 1,600 feet per second from the blast epicenter. Ballistic trauma -- when fragments enter the human body -- can be diagnosed quickly and easily, but there are unseen damages, when the soft issue is damaged.

Similar to professional football players sustaining several concussion injuries, IED blasts cause severe shaking, and leaves permanent damage to brain structure.

"It literally just goes right through the head in a period of microseconds. The blast winds associated with this are about 330 miles an hour and they rapidly oscillate. It causes direct damage to the blood vessels and the parts of the nerve that transmit electrical signals in the brain," said Dr. Lee Goldstein, Boston University neuroscientist, when speaking with reporters.

Research into diminished capacity following IED blasts has been carried out for a few years -- and thousands of soldiers have undergone physical and mental tests following IED blasts. Anyone knocked unconscious by a blast is tested, but those soldiers not complaining are allowed to stay on duty.

Efforts to reduce IED attacks and increase medical research involving IED survivors will increase, especially with a likely correlation between brain injuries from bomb attacks to post-traumatic stress disorder.

IEDs used in Iraq and now Afghanistan range from crude designs placed in trash cans or booby trapped items all the way to sophisticated bombs using military-grade supplies.

Battlefield technology continually improves, but TBI and other injuries need to be addressed through extended medical tests. To counter the effectiveness of IEDs, new methods are now sought to detect roadside bombs, including a specialized laser, with an RC truck even helping save lives.

Source: ABC News Australia

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