Outcomes Associated With Blast Versus Nonblast-Related Traumatic Brain Injury in US Military Service Members and Veterans: A Systematic Review

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Abstract

Objectives:

To systematically review the literature on comparative clinical and functional outcomes following blast-related versus nonblast-related traumatic brain injury (TBI) among US service members and Veterans.

Design:

MEDLINE search (January 2001 to June 2016) supplemented with hand search of reference lists and input from peer reviewers.

Results:

Thirty-one studies (in 33 articles) reported on health outcomes; only 2 were rated low risk of bias. There was variation in outcomes reported and methods of assessment. Blast and nonblast TBI groups had similar rates of depression, sleep disorders, alcohol misuse, vision loss, vestibular dysfunction, and functional status. Comparative outcomes were inconsistent with regard to posttraumatic stress disorder diagnosis or symptoms, headache, hearing loss, and neurocognitive function. Mortality, burn, limb loss, and quality of life were each reported in few studies, most with small sample sizes. Only 4 studies reported outcomes by blast injury mechanism.

Conclusions:

Most clinical and functional outcomes appeared comparable in military service members and Veterans with TBI, regardless of blast exposure. Inconsistent findings and limited outcomes reporting indicate that more research is needed to determine whether there is a distinct pattern of impairments and comorbidities associated with blast-related TBI.

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