, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 33-39
Date: 18 Sep 2010

Medical Care Needs of Returning Veterans with PTSD: Their Other Burden

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ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND

There has been considerable focus on the burden of mental illness (including post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD) in returning Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) veterans, but little attention to the burden of medical illness in those with PTSD.

OBJECTIVES

(1) Determine whether the burden of medical illness is higher in women and men OEF/OIF veterans with PTSD than in those with No Mental Health Conditions (MHC). (2) Identify conditions common in those with PTSD.

DESIGN

Cross-sectional study using existing databases (Fiscal Year 2006–2007).

SETTING

Veterans Health Administration (VHA) patients nationally.

PATIENTS

All 90,558 OEF/OIF veterans using VHA outpatient care nationally, categorized into strata: PTSD, Stress-Related Disorders, Other MHCs, and No MHC.

MEASUREMENTS

(1) Count of medical conditions; (2) specific medical conditions (from ICD9 codes, using Agency for Health Research and Quality’s Clinical Classifications software framework).

MAIN RESULTS

The median number of medical conditions for women was 7.0 versus 4.5 for those with PTSD versus No MHC (p < 0.001), and for men was 5.0 versus 4.0 (p < 0.001). For PTSD patients, the most frequent conditions among women were lumbosacral spine disorders, headache, and lower extremity joint disorders, and among men were lumbosacral spine disorders, lower extremity joint disorders, and hearing problems. These high frequency conditions were more common in those with PTSD than in those with No MHC.

CONCLUSIONS

Burden of medical illness is greater in women and men OEF/OIF veteran VHA users with PTSD than in those with No MHC. Health delivery systems serving them should align clinical program development with their medical care needs.