BACKGROUND: Occupants of military vehicles targeted by explosive devices often suffer from traumatic brain injury (TBI) and are typically transported by the aeromedical evacuation (AE) system to a military medical center within a few days. This study tested the hypothesis that exposure of rats to AE-relevant hypobaria worsens cerebral axonal injury and neurologic impairment caused by underbody blasts.
METHODS: Anesthetized adult male rats were secured within cylinders attached to a metal plate, simulating the hull of an armored vehicle. An explosive located under the plate was detonated, resulting in a peak vertical acceleration force on the plate and occupant rats of 100G. Rats remained under normobaria or were exposed to hypobaria equal to 8,000 feet in an altitude chamber for 6 hours, starting at 6 hours to 6 days after blast. At 7 days, rats were tested for vestibulomotor function using the balance beam walking task and euthanized by perfusion. The brains were then analyzed for axonal fiber injury.
RESULTS: The number of internal capsule silver-stained axonal fibers was greater in animals exposed to 100G blast than in shams. Animals exposed to hypobaria starting at 6 hours to 6 days after blast exhibited more silver-stained fibers than those not exposed to hypobaria. Rats exposed to 100% oxygen (O2) during hypobaria at 24 hours postblast displayed greater silver staining and more balance beam foot-faults, in comparison with rats exposed to hypobaria under 21% O2.
CONCLUSION: Exposure of rats to blast-induced acceleration of 100G increases cerebral axonal injury, which is significantly exacerbated by exposure to hypobaria as early as 6 hours and as late as 6 days postblast. Rats exposed to underbody blasts and then to hypobaria under 100% O2 exhibit increased axonal damage and impaired motor function compared to those subjected to blast and hypobaria under 21% O2. These findings raise concern about the effects of AE-related hypobaria on TBI victims, the timing of AE after TBI, and whether these effects can be mitigated by supplemental oxygen.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine