Multimorbidity and quality of life after blast-related injury among US military personnel: A cluster analysis of retrospective data

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Background: Blast injury emerged as a primary source of morbidity among US military personnel during the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and led to an array of adverse health outcomes. Multimorbidity, or the presence of two or more medical conditions in an individual, can complicate treatment strategies. To date, there is minimal research on the impact of multimorbidity on long-term patient-reported outcomes. We aimed to define multimorbidity patterns in a population of blast-injured military personnel, and to examine these patterns in relation to long-term quality of life (QOL). Methods: A total of 1972 US military personnel who sustained a blast-related injury during military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were identified from clinical records. Electronic health databases were used to identify medical diagnoses within the first year postinjury, and QOL was measured with a web-based assessment. Hierarchical cluster analysis methods using Ward's minimum variance were employed to identify clusters with related medical diagnosis categories. Duncan's multiple range test was used to group clusters into domains by QOL. Results: Five distinct clusters were identified and grouped into three QOL domains. The lowest QOL domain contained one cluster with a clinical triad reflecting musculoskeletal pain, concussion, and mental health morbidity. The middle QOL domain had two clusters, one with concussion/anxiety predominating and the other with polytrauma. The highest QOL domain had two clusters with little multimorbidity aside from musculoskeletal pain. Conclusions: The present study described blast-related injury profiles with varying QOL levels that may indicate the need for integrated health services. Implications exist for current multidisciplinary care of wounded active duty and veteran service members, and future research should determine whether multimorbidity denotes distinct post-blast injury syndromes.




MacGregor, A. J., Zouris, J. M., Watrous, J. R., McCabe, C. T., Dougherty, A. L., Galarneau, M. R., & Fraser, J. J. (2020). Multimorbidity and quality of life after blast-related injury among US military personnel: A cluster analysis of retrospective data. BMC Public Health, 20(1).

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