Institute of Medicine examines health effects of combat blasts

Washington – Although blast trauma among soldiers can be proven to cause serious eye injuries and may be linked to post-traumatic stress disorder, insufficient evidence exists showing a relationship to tinnitus, vertigo and cardiovascular issues, according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine.

Released Feb. 13, the report examines scientific literature on the long-term health effects of blast exposure among veterans of the Gulf War. Researchers found “sufficient evidence of a causal relationship” between blasts and penetrating eye injuries and injuries to reproductive organs. Likewise, “sufficient evidence of an association” was found regarding blast exposure and PTSD, endocrine disruption, and headaches in cases of mild traumatic brain injury.

Researchers found only limited evidence tying blast trauma to amputations, long-term effects on the musculoskeletal system such as osteoarthritis, and a progressive brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Researchers failed to find sufficient evidence to establish a link between blast trauma and tinnitus (ringing of the ears), balance dysfunction, hardening of the arteries and gastrointestinal issues.

IOM recommended the Department of Veterans Affairs develop a system to measure characteristics of the blast and exposure environment, and create a registry of blast-exposed service members for long-term study.

The report was requested by the Department of Veterans Affairs.