David X. Cifu

David X. Cifu, senior brain trauma specialist for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, will speak about his work this Sunday, July 12, at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) in Kakaʻako. Cifu leads a $62.2 million dollar national study on the chronic effects of combat trauma, which involves researchers at UH Mānoa, some 30 other universities, 15 Veterans Affairs medical centers and five U.S. military treatment facilities.

The problems Cifu’s study seeks to address are chronic and widespread. Of the more than 2.5 million service members who have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, there have been approximately 250,000-300,000 moderate-to-severe brain injuries. Nearly one in five service members have sustained one or more concussions. About 200,000 service members continue to have symptoms more than three months after their injuries. The goal of the study is to discern what types of individuals do and don’t get well, what types of early and late treatments work best and what may be the long-term effects of the injuries.

Cifu is an expert in what is called “polytrauma”, complex injuries sustained from improvised explosive devices (IED), blasts and other combat trauma that result in traumatic brain injuries, and complicated by associated amputations, burns, fractures and psychological disorders. Symptoms can occur immediately after the injuries, and some persist for months or years.

“The typical veteran with persistent symptoms has four symptoms,” said Cifu. “The most common symptoms include headaches, dizziness, attention and memory problems, and problems with irritability and a poor tolerance for frustration.”

Other symptoms that occur less commonly include difficulties with vision, hearing, sleep, depression and the ability with returning to school or work. “Unfortunately, as a result of the intense horrors that cause polytrauma, many sufferers also have problems with post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety disorder, which further complicates their care,” said Cifu.

Event details

Cifu will speak on Sunday, July 12, 2015, from 1:30-3:30 p.m. in the Medical Education Building Auditorium at the John A. Burns School of Medicine. His session, “Battlefield to Ball Field: An Integrative Approach to Traumatic Brain Injury,” is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by the Hawaiʻi Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the JABSOM Hawaiʻi Neurotrauma Registry Project.

More on David X. Cifu

Cifu is Chairman and Herman J. Flax, M.D. professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and founding director of the Center for Rehabilitation Sciences and Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is the senior Traumatic Brain Injury specialist, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and principal investigator for the U.S. Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs’ Chronic Effects of NeuroTrauma Consortium.

About the sponsors

The Hawaiʻi Neurotrauma Registry at the University of Hawaiʻi is a voluntary database of Hawaiʻi residents with neurotrauma injury. Funded by the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health, the registry seeks to learn how many island residents are living with neurotrauma injury and what their needs are. Registry participants receive information about their injury and referral to services. For more information, contact (808) 692-1370.

The Hawaiʻi Speech-Language-Hearing Association is a professional, nonprofit organization of speech-language pathologists and audiologists that is nationally recognized by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

The John A. Burns School of Medicine Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) has provided speech, language, and hearing services to the state of Hawaiʻi for nearly 50 years. In addition to aiding Hawaiʻi’s citizens who are speech or hearing impaired and offering hearing screening for school children and the public, CSD conducts research into communications disorders. Department Chair Henry Lew is co-Chair of the Chronic Effects of NeuroTrauma Consortium Scientific Advisory Board, which provides external oversight of all its research activities.