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Traumatic brain injury among women veterans: an invisible wound of intimate partner violence.

Iverson KM, Pogoda TK. Traumatic brain injury among women veterans: an invisible wound of intimate partner violence. Medical care. 2015 Apr 1; 53(4 Suppl 1):S112-9.

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BACKGROUND: Intimate partner violence (IPV) is prevalent among women Veterans and is known to increase women's risk for traumatic brain injury (TBI). IPV-related TBI has not been examined in the women Veteran population. OBJECTIVES: To identify the occurrence of IPV-related TBI in a sample of women Veterans and examine the associations of IPV-related TBI with sociodemographic characteristics, health symptoms, health care utilization, and IPV experiences. RESEARCH DESIGN: Cross-sectional mail survey conducted in 2013. SUBJECTS: The sample comprised 176 New England Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) women Veteran patients. MEASURES: Self-reported IPV-related TBI was assessed with a modified VA TBI screening tool. The survey included validated measures of depression (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD; Posttraumatic Disorder Checklist) symptoms, as well as overall mental and physical health (SF-12), and IPV (Conflict Tactics Scales-Revised-2). Questions assessed past-year VA and non-VA health care use. RESULTS: A total of 18.8% (n = 33) met screening criteria for IPV-related TBI history. Women who experienced IPV-related TBI reported significantly higher depression (mean Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale scores: 26.6 vs. 20.7, P < 0.0001) and PTSD (mean Posttraumatic Disorder Checklist scores: 53.2 vs. 34.1, P < 0.0001) symptoms, and poorer perceptions of physical health (mean SF-12 34.6 vs. 42.3, P < 0.01) than women who experienced IPV to the head without TBI. IPV-related TBI was also associated with poorer perceptions of mental health, as well as more frequent VA health care utilization and overall IPV. CONCLUSIONS: IPV-related TBI is associated with poorer mental and physical health in women Veterans. This invisible injury is associated with greater VA health care utilization and IPV exposure. Implications for VA practice and policy are discussed.

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