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Intl. researcher shares new understanding of the biology of PTSD, chronic pain and depression

Photo: New understanding of the biology of PTSD, chronic pain and depression
Dr Samuel McLean, MD, a practicing emergency medical doctor and researcher at the University of North Carolina, is visiting Australia this week to present at the international Whiplash 2017 Symposium at the Gold Coast.

Whiplash 2017 is a joint event of Griffith University, Menzies Health Institute Queensland and Recover Injury Research Centre.

He will share his knowledge about the development and prevention of disorders such as chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression after trauma.

Around 30% of people who present to emergency departments in the first world are seeking care after trauma exposure.

More than 9 out of 10 individuals who visit an emergency department after traumatic events are discharged.

Unfortunately, adverse neuropsychiatric outcomes among these discharged patients are common, and include chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression.
Dr McLean said, “To give an Australian example, of the 160,000 people who visit the Gold Coast Health emergency departments, almost 50,000 have experienced a traumatic event such as a road traffic crash, assault or other incident.

Based on all of the evidence to date in the world’s literature, it is very likely that last year Gold Coast Health discharged more than 5,000 people who go on to develop depression, another 5,000 develop PTSD, and over 6,000 develop chronic pain.”

Dr McLean said, “Because these disorders mostly arise after discharge, these conditions are often invisible to medical practitioners.”

Dr McLean and his team at the University of North Carolina are currently researching the biological basis of brain posttraumatic brain disorders such as PTSD, depression and chronic pain in a US$21-million study, which is unprecedented in both comprehensiveness of the data and in its scope.

Study participants will be enrolled in the immediate aftermath of trauma, and will receive a relatively comprehensive “molecules-to-symptoms” evaluation, including genomic, neuroimaging, neurocognitive, behavioural, and symptom assessments.

Dr McLean said, “200 years ago, the people thought wound infection was inevitable after trauma.

This changed when people started to understand the biology behind infection and now we can significantly reduce the risk of infection and treat it if necessary.

There is no reason why we can’t prevent post traumatic health conditions like PTSD, chronic pain and depression.

We understand the biology of something like infection, and in the same way, we need to understand the biology of post-traumatic neuropsychiatric sequelae so that we can develop tools to identify the disorders and interventions to treat them.

This is what our studies aim to achieve.”

Professor Michele Sterling, from the Griffith University, Menzies Health Institute Queensland and Recover Injury Research Centre has brought leading international researchers to Australia for the Whiplash 2017 Symposium

Dr McLean said, “Professor Sterling is universally respected for her expertise in the area of whiplash and musculoskeletal pain.

Researchers are coming from all over the world to share the latest findings of their research at the Symposium.”

Recover Injury Research Centre is a joint initiative of the Motor Accident Insurance Commission, The University of Queensland and Griffith University.

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