Updating and Refining Prevalence Rates of Traumatic Brain Injury–Related Communication Disorders Among Post-9/11 Veterans: A Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium Study

Norman R., Swan A., Jenkins, A. Amuan, M., Pugh M.J. (2020) Updating and refining prevalence rates of traumatic brain injury-related communication disorders among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan: A Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium Study. Perspectives of the American-Speech Hearing Special Interests Groups Journal.

Topic: communication disorders


Purpose: To describe the prevalence of communication disorders in a cohort of 84,377 deployed post-9/11 veterans stratified by blast traumatic brain injury (TBI) exposure. Secondary aim was to evaluate the association between postconcussion symptoms, such as posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, insomnia, pain, headache, substance use disorder, and auditory problems, among veterans with and without a communication disorder diagnosis. Methods: This is a retrospective study of the prevalence of aphasia, apraxia of speech and dysarthria, cognitive-communication disorder, fluency, and voice disorders among veterans, stratified by TBI severity and blast status. Data were obtained from the national Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn roster file provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Public Health and the Veterans Affairs' TBI screening and subsequent comprehensive TBI evaluation. Results: Cognitive-communication disorder was the most prevalent diagnosis, comprising 57.1% of all communication disorder diagnoses, followed by voice disorder (19%) and aphasia (16%). Increased age was significantly associated with higher rates of aphasia, apraxia of speech/dysarthria, and voice disorder. Conclusions: The current study shows that, while the overall total number of communication disorder diagnoses was higher in the blast groups than in the nonblast groups, TBI severity was a more significant risk factor for a diagnosis, with veterans in the more severe groups at a higher risk of being diagnosed with a communication disorder when compared to those with mild TBI and no blast exposure. In order to better inform rehabilitation and clinical management of communication conditions, it is critical to examine the influence of blast and postconcussive symptoms in post-9/11 veterans.