Is there a Long-term Impact on Quality of Life after Repatriation for Diseases or Non-Battle Injuries?

Research Paper Title

Repatriation for diseases or non-battle injuries (DNBI): long-term impact on quality of life.

Background

Throughout history, diseases and non-battle injuries (DNBI) have threatened deployed forces more than battlefield injuries. During the Dutch involvement in Afghanistan, the amount of DNBI that needed medical evacuation out of theatre (60%) exceeded the number of battle injuries (40%). The aim of this study is to explore the long-term quality of life (QoL) of Dutch service members that acquired a DNBI, warranting repatriation during their deployment to Afghanistan between 2003 and 2014.

Methods

Observational cross-sectional cohort study in a selected group of Dutch service members who deployed to Afghanistan 2003-2014 and were repatriated due to DNBI. Using the 36-item Short Form, EuroQol-6D, Symptom Checklist 90 and Post Deployment Reintegration Scale questionnaires, their outcomes were compared with a control group of deployed service members who did not sustain injuries or illnesses.

Results

Groups were comparable in age, rank, number of deployments and social status. There were significant differences found in terms of physical functioning, pain and health perspective. No differences were seen in emotional or psychological outcomes.

Conclusions

The amount of military service members who contract a DNBI is significant and imposes a burden on the capacity of the medical support, readiness of deployed units and sustainability of ongoing operations. However, regarding QoL, being forced to leave their units and to be repatriated to their home country due to a DNBI seems to have no significant impact on reported psychological symptoms of distress and reintegration experiences. Future research should focus on more in-depth registration of illnesses and not combat related diseases and injuries and even longer-term outcomes.

Reference

Huizinga, E., Idenburg, F.J., van Dongen, T.T.C.F. & Hoencamp, R. (2019) Repatriation for diseases or non-battle injuries (DNBI): long-term impact on quality of life. Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps. pii: jramc-2019-001194. doi: 10.1136/jramc-2019-001194. [Epub ahead of print].

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