Cleveland, OH (Law Firm Newswire) September 9, 2013 - Until recently, most doctors thought traumatic brain damage (TBI) just affected the brain itself. It turns out that this is not the case.
“This story is interesting for several reasons,” said Christopher Mellino, a traumatic brain injury lawyer of the Cleveland firm Mellino Robenalt. “An Army specialist returned home from Iraq and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. What baffled the doctors treating him was his sudden 50-pound weight gain.”
After multiple tests to track down the reason why the veteran gained 50-pounds so quickly, it was discovered that his pituitary gland had sustained damage, thanks to the numerous head pounding sound waves from explosions that he had experienced. The revelation was an eye-opener for the physicians, as no one had been looking any further than the obvious TBI. Pituitary damage may be going undiagnosed, because no one is looking for it.
“Most of the medical community understands to check for TBI when an armed services member returns stateside,” Mellino indicated, “but few doctors are aware that the brain damage is not the only thing to be looking for.” The symptoms of pituitary damage and brain damage often overlap, making diagnosis difficult, which may well explain why some vets with PTSD do not fully recover.
The Pentagon has updated its guidelines for physicians to start screening for hormone irregularities, particularly if symptoms continue to plague a patient after receiving concussions ---- usually regarded as the mildest, and most common form of TBI.
The pituitary gland, which is about the size of a small pea, keeps the body regulated and running properly by secreting nine hormones. It is tucked away into a small pocket in the skull and is attached to the base of the brain by blood vessels and neurons. “While the news about trauma affecting the pituitary gland is not new in relation to sports or car accidents, no one has thought to associate damage to the gland as a result of bomb blasts,” explained Mellino.
The first study, released in 2012, was done to assess pituitary damage as a result of concussive waves that follow an explosion. The University of Washington and scientists at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System revealed they had discovered signs of damage in 42 percent of the patients they looked at. “There is another study, due to be released some time this year, that documents researchers in England finding pituitary problems in 32 percent of returning military personnel with TBI,” Mellino said.
There is a long road to travel yet, but the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs did write a check to the Washington research team for $932,000 to expand their study. “As things stand right now, over 200,000 U.S. military specialists have been exposed to IEDs and other artillery that emit bludgeoning, concussive sound waves. Many vets do not realize they have TBI or pituitary damage. They just got used to being blown up as a part of their job. Today, their job is coming home to haunt them,” added Mellino.
Traumatic brain injury may be the result of a number of things. “If you have been in a car accident or sustained a sports injury, and there was negligence involved in the accident, we need to discuss your case. You need to know your legal rights,” Mellino said.
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