TBI/PTS study dispels fallacies about injury and treatment
The more we sweat in peace the less we bleed in war, is the maxim that drives US military training. The reality is that training is so realistic and dangerous that many troops are killed and injured during training preparations for war. But realistic and intensive training helps to dispel the “fog of war” so that in the face of adversity battlefield decisions will ultimately save lives.
After 15 years of war in the Middle East, the signature injuries service members’ suffer in addition to the “usual” consequences of war are Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress (PTS). For years, many veterans suspected repeated exposure to combat blast zones, whether in training or in the theater of operations, were the cause of actual brain injuries. But traditional medical practice concluded there was no physically discernible injury because one could not be seen in either radiological or blood tests – – – until now.
Depression, anxiety, memory issues and sleep deprivation are a few of the side effects service members have endured through combat and training. However, those markers sent anyone complaining of the symptoms into one of two camps; first, the suck it up and get on with it crowd that most military members are trained to accept before they head to combat or a trip to the psychiatrist office.
The military’s version of “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” convinced warriors that pharmaceutical drugs were the cure for their ailments. They were asked to follow prescription drug regimens that were supposed to ease the symptoms, but tragically, approximately 22 warriors continue to commit suicide every day. Despite the best of intentions, these warriors received a “life sentence” of drug dependency. This medical practice went against everything they stood for, but it was the generally accepted medical treatment plan of the day.
This week that “wild ride” was turned upside down. A new study uncovered a never before seen lesion in the brain tissue, something not seen on the CT/MRI scans, that is believed to be causing a “plethora” of symptoms troops had been describing, but which had been dismissed by traditional medicine.
The study reveals PTS was most likely a misdiagnosis. Daniel Perl, a neuropathologist at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences released a pioneering medical research article that his findings found a brain lesion indicating combat blast damage was distinctive.
The research team sponsored by the Department of Defense may have solved a 100-year mystery that explains how blast force from battlefield explosions can damage the human brain.
The findings, published Thursday in the medical journal the Lancet Neurology, demonstrated a consistent pattern of damage using autopsies from the brains of eight military service members that had served in the Middle East.
But could the fix be deduced from a specialized blood test? According to new research, brain hormone imbalances could be the culprit and the key to unlocking a cure for many TBI/PTS cases diagnosed within the military. While the study is in its initial stages, it does provide a road map for other doctors and medical researchers.
As a Green Beret, Andrew Marr, is a textbook example of TBI/PTS misdiagnoses. However, as a special forces leader, he refused to accept his “new life sentence” and searched for alternative options. He found a doctor in Los Angeles that treated TBI/PTS patients for brain hormone imbalances. It worked for Marr, but without mainstream studies or scholarly papers, it was not generally accepted in the medical community.
The Lancet study has lent a lot of credence to Dr. Mark Gordon’s theory; “It has been my 11 years of experience in treating mild and moderate TBI cases that the replenishment of neuroactive and neurosteroids to optimal levels has offered the greatest impact and resolve in each patient’s condition.”
If the Lancet study proves correct, it will revolutionize how TBI/PTS patients are treated and could go a long way to removing the stigma long associated with PTS. Another factor to consider is the non-military population at large; many have survived car accidents, played sports or work in law enforcement where concussions are common, they too could see the effects of this revolutionary therapy.
Responding to the groundbreaking brain research Dr. Gordon, of the Millennium Center, said; “This is fantastic science showing that blast wave trauma can penetrate the skull and cause perforations in the cells of the brain. It has taken 100 years to figure this out so how much longer before they start treating the underlying sequalae of the trauma and address the inflammatory cascades and loss of important biochemical regulators of cognition and personality; the neurosteroids?”
The lead researcher in the Lancet study, Daniel Perl, a neuropathologist said, “What we found was a pattern of scarring that in 40 years of examining thousands of brains at autopsy I’ve never seen before and as far as I know is not described in any of the medical literature.” He also believes the implications of this discovery are weighty.
“It will mean reevaluating people we’ve labeled as having PTSD,” Perl said. “There’s nothing obvious in terms of treatment, but at least it suggests that one should not think about approaching the problem as a purely mental health problem.”
What it means for troops is astounding. Typically soldiers sent to the shrink to cope with PTS were handed bushels of psychotropic drugs that only masked the real problem, the treatment didn’t necessarily address the injuries the military troops exposed to blasts waves suffered. It means they could be reexamined. Dr. Perl says many of these symptoms “are also characteristic of PTSD, which afflicts an estimated 11 to 20 percent of all veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in any given year.
Pre-study medical practices initially assumed the symptoms to be psychological.
To fully understand the science, Perl explains blast waves cause damage at the boundaries of different structures, such as “between brain matter and cerebrospinal fluids and between gray and white brain matter. That damage is consistent with experiments that have modeled blast waves’ effects on the different substances forming the brain.”
But the game changer for many service members is relieving the stigma attached to PTS.
“It comes back down to the stigma of mental illness,” said Jean Teichroew, Anxiety and Depression Association of America spokeswoman. “Military members also are afraid to speak out because it’s seen as a weakness. The VA [Veteran Affairs] has programs to try to combat that, too. But when you have a sergeant who doesn’t think you should be afraid of a bomb going off near you or seeing a dead body, that’s another issue.”
Still, the rate of diagnosed PTSD cases among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is higher than the rate of cases associated with men and women who served in past conflicts. That abrupt spike has sparked an ongoing debate within American and British academia as to how common PTSD truly is among military personnel and veterans.”
Department of Veterans Affairs records suggests that 45 percent of all veterans from Iraq’s Operation Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan’s Operation Enduring Freedom have applied for some form of service-connected disability compensation. Compare this figure to veterans from World War II, 11 percent and Vietnam, 16 percent, who also received disability compensation.
Dr. Gordon simply says it’s about the replenishment of hormone levels. Until the body and brain are operating on the individual’s specific hormonal levels the misdiagnosis will continue. “All illnesses have a beginning, middle and ending. Our goal is to detect low-normal and abnormal levels of hormones, neurosteroids, and neuroactive steroids that have significant influences over psychological, physiological and physical functioning.”
“The impact on normal hormonal production in apparently health individuals who have sustained a minor TBI can be life altering. The perception that only intense forms of trauma can precipitate hormonal deficiencies or insufficiencies is greatly in error. Simple trauma such as an auto accident, amusement park rides, and jarring of the head can lead to singular or multiple hormone deficiencies. Sports related TBI have now become a daily discussion on the major cable channels. We started discussing this in 2004 and then on ESPN in January 2007,” Gordon said.
The only way to diagnose whether a singular head injury or years of subtle head injuries has caused hormone deficiency/insufficiency is through specific laboratory testing. Once the test results are seen it will be the matter of interpretation of the results that will make the major difference.
According to Dr. Gordon, conventional medications (antidepressants, anti-anxiety, anti-seizure, anti-psychotic, and narcotics) do nothing to address the underlying causes that create the symptoms associated with TBI (Post-Concussion Syndrome) because they do not replenish the missing neurosteroids (brain hormones). Many individuals under conventional treatment become further dysfunctional from the overload of medications used for treating the superficial complaints (masking).
“My position on PTSD versus TBI is very clear; if there was no physical component to your acute stressor situation that precipitated the condition referred to as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, then it is most likely PTSD,” Gordon explains. “On the other hand, if you had any physical component, whether it involved the head directly or indirectly, then it is a potential case of Traumatic Brain Injury. It is my belief, based upon interpretation of 100’s of articles suggesting that it is the interruption of both neurosteroids (hormones produced in the brain that regulate who we are and how we function) and neuroactive steroids (produced in the peripheral glands like testes, ovaries, adrenals and so forth) that cause the change in our neuro-receptors that regulate mood and intellectual states.”
Dr. Gordon has been at this for more than a decade and currently lectures to physicians. In 2015, he launched a lecture series based upon his book: Traumatic Brain Injury – A Clinical Approach to Diagnosis and Treatment.
Dr. Brooke Alexander, who has researched TBI/PTS, concurs with Dr. Gordon and says more than 385,000 troops have come home with varying forms of brain damage. “Dr. Gordon’s hormone studies of the last 20 years are absolutely brilliant. He is using the body to heal itself.”
Hang tough warriors, the cavalry is on the way.
Read and watch part one here
Watch the entire unedited interview here
To reach Dr. Gordon link here