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Effectiveness and harms of mental health treatments in service members and veterans with deployment-related mild traumatic brain injury.

Ackland PE, Greer N, Sayer NA, Spoont MR, Taylor BC, MacDonald R, McKenzie L, Rosebush C, Wilt TJ. Effectiveness and harms of mental health treatments in service members and veterans with deployment-related mild traumatic brain injury. Journal of affective disorders. 2019 Jun 1; 252:493-501.

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BACKGROUND: Co-morbidity of psychiatric conditions with traumatic brain injury (TBI) is common among service members and Veterans from recent deployments. Practice guidelines for mild TBI (mTBI) recommend management of co-occurring psychiatric conditions with existing treatments, but it is unclear whether the effectiveness of treatments for psychiatric conditions is impacted by mTBI. We conducted a systematic literature review to examine the effectiveness and harms of pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder, depressive disorders, substance use disorders, suicidal ideation or attempts, and anxiety disorders in the presence of co-morbid deployment-related mTBI. METHODS: We searched bibliographic databases for peer-reviewed, English language studies published from 2000 to October 2017. Two reviewers independently completed abstract triage and full text review. RESULTS: We identified 7 studies (5 pre-post and 2 secondary analysis). Six assessed psychotherapy and one reported on hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO). Studies comparing outcomes by TBI history found that a history of TBI does not affect treatment outcomes. Harms were reported only for HBO and were mild. No study examined the effectiveness of treatments for substance use disorders or suicidal ideation, or the effectiveness of pharmacological interventions for the psychiatric conditions of interest in service members and Veterans with mTBI. LIMITATIONS: Studies lacked usual care or wait-list control groups and no randomized trials were found, making the strength of evidence insufficient. CONCLUSIONS: Evidence is insufficient to fully assess the impact of TBI on the effectiveness of treatments for psychiatric conditions. Higher quality evidence with definitive guidance for providers treating this population is needed.

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