How many service members have had a blast injury?
We have a good idea in terms of the numbers that have been affected by blast injury and that’s in the hundreds of thousands. What percentage of those individuals are suffering from this abnormality that we found under the microscope looking at donated brains is unclear. We’re working on that and hope to be able to make a statement on that. This is ongoing research and it’s why we need to continue doing what we do.
To date, all the specimens we’ve looked at have been males. We are just starting to see a combat role among women. They have been exposed to blast. They will be exposed to blast. But to date we have not had a donation of a single female brain to really answer the question. But it’s certainly an important question.
An additional aspect of this is we consider a blast TBI to be a military problem, and indeed it is a major problem for the military, but more and more if one just reads the newspaper each day, one is finding incidents in which civilians have been exposed to blasts, primarily in terms of terrorist activities. So this is slowly becoming a civilian problem as well, in terms of what are the long-term effects on civilians who’ve been involved in these terrorist attacks involving blast exposure.
Dr. Perl is a Professor of Pathology at USUHS and Director of the CNRM's Brain Tissue Repository, where he has established a state-of-the-art neuropathology laboratory dedicated to research on the acute and long-term effects of traumatic brain injury among military personnel.