In a special guest editorial, Bass and colleagues discuss the limitations of current estimates of the prevalence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) veterans. Since these estimates often determine the allocation of resources, the authors urge decision makers to understand the limitations of these prevalence estimates.
The authors discuss three main problems with the current prevalence rates of TBI and PTSD in the OIF/OEF population. First, the studies generally report the percentage of servicemembers who screen positive for TBI or PTSD, not those who have been diagnosed with the condition by an appropriately trained medical provider. Second, the study samples are not representative of the entire ever-deployed military population. Third, the degree of impairment for servicemembers who have or have had TBI or PTSD is unknown.
The authors urge researchers to use caution when interpreting published estimates of TBI and PTSD prevalence for OIF/OEF servicemembers. They conclude that existing studies are suggestive only and likely to overestimate the number of TBI and PTSD cases for the entire ever-deployed force.