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Brain Scan Can Tell PTSD Apart from Traumatic Brain Injury

“Diagnosis and treatment for PTSD and TBI [are] often based on symptom clusters, and difficulties in differentiating between these brain disorders often arise due to the symptom overlap,” said Daniel Amen, primary investigator on the study, in an interview with Healthline. “Functional neuroimaging with SPECT may hold the key to differentiating these disorders effectively, eliminating the reliance on self-report data, diagnosis based on symptom clusters, and challenges to diagnosis.”

“When it comes to treating TBI and PTSD, it’s important to be able to tell the two apart. The treatments for one can be harmful for people with the other.

For example, the tranquilizers (benzodiazepines) that people with PTSD use to soothe an overactive brain could pack a dangerous double-punch to the already-underactive TBI brain.
Meanwhile, the regular therapies required to treat TBI could be triggering for someone with PTSD.”

Not a Small Problem
Since 2000, more than 300,000 veterans have been diagnosed with TBI and more than 125,000 with PTSD — with no small amount of overlap among them.One study found that 73 percent of veterans with TBI also had PTSD.

In 2008, the Rand Corporation estimated that the costs for providing adequate care for these patients would run into the billions.

Among U.S. civilians, about 3.5 percent of adults experience PTSD — that’s about 8.5 million people. In 2010 alone, there were about 2.3 million emergency department visits for suspected TBI.