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Study Concludes Afghanistan/Iraq Vets Who’ve Suffered TBI are at Increased Risk to Develop Epilepsy

Written by Tom Crosley
Brain Injuries, Catastrophic Personal Injury

A recent study funded by the VA Health Services and Development Administration and conducted by researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio has concluded that United States veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars who experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI) while deployed were 28% more likely to develop epilepsy than those soldiers who did not. These findings align with previous studies involving veterans of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam who also exhibited a correlation between having suffered combat-related head injuries and developing epilepsy.

The research was based on the medical records of more than 250,000 veterans who received care from the Veterans Health Administration during the 2009 and 2010 fiscal years. Of particular note is the relationship between penetrating traumatic brain injury (pTBI), in which the dura membrane is actually breached by an object, and epilepsy. Pugh and her colleagues determined that the risk of developing epilepsy was 18 times more likely in patients who presented with pTBI than in those who had not suffered a TBI, which also remained consistent with previous data compiled based on other United States veterans. Overall, the study concluded that the more severe the form of TBI, the more likely it is that epilepsy will eventually present.[1]

The author of the study, Mary Jo Pugh, a former member of the United States Air Force and current UT professor and scientist with the South Texas Veterans Health Care System, states that, “The high prevalence of TBIs has raised concerns for the long-term consequences of neurotrauma in this population.” She further states that, “Based on data from previous wars, there is a particular concern for the risk of posttraumatic epilepsy.” She’s concerned about the potential for a widespread increase in epilepsy among veterans returning from combat zones overseas, which could place a significant burden on our healthcare system as well as society in general in the form of personal injury, loss of employment, social stigmatization, and even death.[2] Therefore, both public and veterans’ health care establishments should be prepared for a substantial increase in epilepsy cases involving returning veterans in the years to come.


[1] Pugh, M.J. V., Orman, J. A., Jaramillo, C. A., Salinsky, M. C., Eapen, B. C., Towne, A. R., … Grafman, J. H. (2014, April 1). The prevalence of epilepsy and association with traumatic brain injury in veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation.
Retrieved from

[2] Bailey, W. S. (2014, July 31). New health science center study looks at veterans with traumatic brain injuries. San Antonio Business Journal. Retrieved from

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