The Vietnam Head Injury Study (VHIS) is a prospective, longitudinal follow-up of 1,221 Vietnam War veterans with mostly penetrating head injuries (PHIs). The high prevalence (45%–53%) of posttraumatic epilepsy (PTE) in this unique cohort makes it valuable for study.
A standardized multidisciplinary neurologic, cognitive, behavioral, and brain imaging evaluation was conducted on 199 VHIS veterans plus uninjured controls, some 30 to 35 years after injury, as part of phase 3 of this study.
The prevalence of seizures (87 patients, 43.7%) was similar to that found during phase 2 evaluations 20 years earlier, but 11 of 87 (12.6%) reported very late onset of PTE after phase 2 (more than 14 years after injury). Those patients were not different from patients with earlier-onset PTE in any of the measures studied. Within the phase 3 cohort, the most common seizure type last experienced was complex partial seizures (31.0%), with increasing frequency after injury. Of subjects with PTE, 88% were receiving anticonvulsants. Left parietal lobe lesions and retained ferric metal fragments were associated with PTE in a logistic regression model. Total brain volume loss predicted seizure frequency.
Patients with PHI carry a high risk of PTE decades after their injury, and so require long-term medical follow-up. Lesion location, lesion size, and lesion type were predictors of PTE.
= Analysis of Brain Lesions;
= Armed Forces Qualification Test;
= Automated Image Registration;
= closed head injury;
= glutamic acid decarboxylase;
= phase 1;
= phase 2;
= phase 3;
= penetrating head injury;
= posttraumatic epilepsy;
= traumatic brain injury;
= Vietnam Head Injury Study;
= Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale.