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VA’s lead investigator in combat brain trauma speaks at JABSOM

Date: July 10th, 2015 in Care, Faculty, JABSOM News, Research    Print or PDF

Dr. Cifu

Dr. David X. Cifu, senior brain trauma specialist for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, spoke about his work this Sunday, July 12, 2015 at the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) in Kakaʻako. Dr. Cifu leads a $62.2 million dollar national study on the chronic effects of combat trauma, which involves researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, some 30 other universities, 15 Veterans Affairs Medical Centers and five U.S. military treatment facilities.

Some of the issues he addressed
The problems Dr Cifu’s study seeks to address are chronic and widespread. Of the more than 2.5 million service members who have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, there have been approximately 250,000-300,000 moderate-to-severe brain injuries. Nearly one in five service members have sustained one or more concussions. About 200,000 service members continue to have symptoms more than three months after their injuries. The goal of the study is to discern what types of individuals do and don’t get well, what types of early and late treatments work best and what may be the long-term effects of the injuries.

Dr. Cifu is an expert in what is called “polytrauma”, complex injuries sustained from IED’s, blasts and other combat trauma that result in traumatic brain injuries, and complicated by associated amputations, burns, fractures and psychological disorders. Symptoms can occur immediately after the injuries, and some persist for months or years.

“The typical Veteran with persistent symptoms has four symptoms,” said Dr. Cifu. “The most common symptoms include headaches, dizziness, attention and memory problems, and problems with irritability and a poor tolerance for frustration.”

Other symptoms that occur less commonly include difficulties with vision, hearing, sleep, depression and the ability with returning to school or work. “Unfortunately, as a result of the intense horrors that cause polytrauma, many sufferers also have problems with post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety disorder, which further complicates their care,” said Dr. Cifu.

Dr. Cifu’s lecture on Sunday, July 12, 2015 was titled, “Battlefield to Ball Field: An Integrative Approach to Traumatic Brain Injury.” It was sponsored by the Hawaiʻi Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the JABSOM Hawaiʻi Neurotrauma Registry Project.

About the sponsors:
The Hawaiʻi Neurotrauma Registry at the University of Hawaiʻi is a voluntary database of Hawaiʻi residents with neurotrauma injury (TBI: Traumatic Brain Injury, Spinal Cord Injury or Stroke). Funded by the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health, the registry seeks to learn how many island residents are living with neurotrauma injury and what their needs are. Registry participants receive information about their injury and referral to services. For more information, contact (808) 692-1370.

The Hawaiʻi Speech-Language-Hearing Association is a professional, nonprofit organization of speech-language pathologists and audiologists that is nationally recognized by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

A headshot of Dr. Henry Lew

Henry Lew, MD, PhD, Chair of JABSOM Communication Sciences & Disorders

The John A. Burns School of Medicine Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders has provided speech, language, and hearing services to the state of Hawai‘i for nearly 50 years. In addition to aiding Hawaiʻi’s citizens who are speech or hearing impaired and offering hearing screening for school children and the public, CSD conducts research into communications disorders. Department Chair Henry Lew, MD, PhD, is co-Chair of the Chronic Effects of NeuroTrauma Consortium Scientific Advisory Board, which provides external oversight of all its research activities. In 2013, Dr. Lew and Dr. Cifu collaborated on the Handbook of Polytrauma Care and Rehabilitation, the first book on the subject.

More about Dr. David X. Cifu:
Dr. Cifu is Chairman and Herman J. Flax, M.D. Professor in the Department of PM&R, and founding director of the Center for Rehabilitation Sciences and Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is the Senior TBI Specialist, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and Principal Investigator for The U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs Chronic Effects of NeuroTrauma Consortium.

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