THURSDAY, April 11 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. veterans who
suffered major limb injuries in combat showed little improvement
with mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the two years after
receiving treatment for their wounds, researchers report.
Their pain levels showed the most improvement three to six
months after their initial hospitalization and then leveled off,
according to the study, which is scheduled for presentation
Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pain
Medicine in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
"Our research confirms that chronic daily pain ... continues to be a burden for limb-injured servicemen, that post-traumatic stress is a far more prominent feature of recovery than in other chronic pain populations and that returning to a meaningful role functioning in their lives is challenging for many," study leader Dr. Rollin Gallagher, deputy national program director for pain management in the Department of Veterans Affairs, said in an academy news release.
Gallagher and his colleagues conducted phone interviews with
nearly 300 veterans who suffered major combat-related limb
injuries. Nearly half had lost limbs. The interviews were done
every three months for two years, beginning after the veterans'
At various points during the interview period, nearly 14 percent
of the veterans reported generalized anxiety disorder, 14 percent
reported depression and 5 percent had suicidal thoughts. Nearly 46
percent reported a low level of PTSD, and an additional 12 percent
reported a high level of PTSD.
Pain levels immediately improved in the six months after initial
hospitalization but did not show any further improvement over the
remainder of the two-year study period, the study found.
The findings suggest that severely injured veterans require
ongoing care to help them cope with the pain and trauma of their
injuries, said Gallagher, who is also a clinical professor of
psychiatry and anesthesiology at the University of Pennsylvania and
the Philadelphia VA Medical Center.
Data and conclusions presented at meetings typically are
considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical
The American Psychiatric Association has more about
military mental health.