From the modern Physician
By Rich Daly
Posted: June 13, 2012 – 10:45 am ET A newly published review of the healthcare needs of recent combat veterans aims to help public and private providers who care for them.
A group of Veterans Affairs Department clinicians compiled a comprehensive review of health issues for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and practical management guidelines for their primary-care providers.
The review and care guidelines were published online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine (PDF).
The review described the ways that combat deployments can impact the physical and psychological health of veterans in unique ways. The effects of such duty may require assessment and management of injuries associated with exposure to blasts, such as mild traumatic brain injury, and mental health conditions, including posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and substance abuse.
“This article provides valuable insight into the fastest-growing segment of the veteran population at a time they are currently returning from combat,” Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a news release.
The large number of veterans who have combat-related health needs are among the roughly 2.4 million service members who have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan since September 11, 2001, according to the release. Their health problems include chronic musculoskeletal pain, medically unexplained symptoms, complications from environmental exposures, heightened suicide risk, sleep disturbances, and impairments in family, occupational and social functioning, according to the review.
The review also summarizes evidence on a range of behavioral risk factors that can endanger the future health of such veterans.
This patient population’s complex physical, psychological and psychosocial challenges led the review’s authors to recommend an interdisciplinary approach to care focused on mitigating the long-term health impacts of combat.