Experts Focus on Post-Traumatic Epilepsy in Military Personnel and Civilians

A panel of medical experts discussed the implications of combat-induced traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the opening day session of the 64th American Epilepsy Society (AES) Annual Meeting. The session focused on post-traumatic seizure care from treatment on the battlefield to veteran hospitals and the civilian community. The health implications from traumatic brain injury impact workers who have suffered head injuries as well.

Post-traumatic seizures and epilepsy can develop anytime from immediately to days or weeks to more than a decade after brain injury. Not all military personnel who have experienced combat-related TBI obtain care in the VA hospital system. Many integrate into civilian medical practice and receive care from healthcare professionals who might not recognize TBI as the cause of the epilepsy.

The purpose of the special session on combat-induced TBI was to educate healthcare professionals attending the meeting on recognizing epilepsy in military personnel as well as civilians. The experts also discussed the preferred practice for treatment of patients with epilepsy due to TBI.

Karen L. Parko, M.D., national director of the newly established VA Epilepsy Centers of Excellence (ECoE) who works at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, highlighted the ECoE. The Centers were established through a congressional mandate in order to deliver the highest quality care to veterans with epilepsy through a national network. The VA system currently treats more than 80,000 veterans with epilepsy and this number is expected to dramatically increase due to the development of post-traumatic epilepsy in combat personnel who have experienced TBI.

The topics addressed at the meeting included: 1) seizure care on the battlefield; 2) DoD policy and clinical practice guidelines on treatment of seizures; 3) physics of blast injury and military models of blast research; and, 4) care of veterans in the new VA Epilepsy Centers of Excellence.

Traumatic brain injury is the topic of several other reports during the 5-day scientific conference, including a presentation titled, “Continuous EEG Monitoring in Pediatric Moderate-Severe Traumatic Brain Injury,” and a report on research of a biomarker for predicting the risk of seizures after TBI.

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