Standard, Systemized Care for Traumatic Brain Injury

Dr. Geoffrey Ling talks about the military's success in creating a standard, system of care for TBI — from immediate assessment to admittance into a concussion restoration center.

[Dr. Geoffrey Ling] I think the number one thing that we've been successful to do in the military is create a system of care, and that's very, very important. If you consider the analogy of heart attacks. Why are heart attacks, survival of heart attacks so much better now than they were, say, 20 years ago? It's because the cardiologists and the medical community have developed a tremendous system of care that when a patient develops chest pain, they know to go to the hospital. At the hospital, they know what to do. They do CPR, they do advanced cardiac life support. They have a process that's the same all over the country. In fact, I would argue all over the developed world. If you had a heart attack here in northern Virginia and you went to one of the fine hospitals here, you would get a very high level of care. You would get that same level of care even if you were in one of the more remote areas of the United States because it's systematized. We need to do that for traumatic brain injury. We need to have that. Right now the community is trying to do that, but they're doing it very slowly. The military has actually succeeded. If a soldier is caught in explosive blasts in Helmand Province or outside Kabul or in the western parts of Afghanistan or even in Iraq, they will get a standard system of care, which means that they will be immediately assessed. If they were assessed to have a traumatic brain injury, they would be sent to their local doctor, who is probably their unit doctor. The unit doctor would diagnose with concussion. They would go to a concussion restoration center; these exist at the front right now, and they would undergo a very formalized program of care administered by the occupational therapists. This is really important. No such thing exists right now in the civilian sector. If we had to do something, it would be to take that system and bring it in the civilian sector.
Posted on BrainLine January 15, 2013.

Produced by Noel Gunther, Ashley Gilleland, and Erica Queen, BrainLine.