World First PTSD Research undertaken at Greenslopes published in MJA

Aug 27, 2017

World-first research into the long-term physical impacts of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by researchers at Greenslopes Private Hospital’s Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation was recently published in the prestigious Medical Journal of Australia.

The research reveals alarming health implications for veterans diagnosed with the condition.

 Participants were four times more likely to have a heart attack, twice as likely to have stomach ulcers, three times as likely to suffer from obstructive sleep apnoea, and had decreased lung function.

“Our study shows that PTSD can no longer be considered narrowly as a psychological disorder; rather it’s best described as a full systemic disorder,” said Professor Darrell Crawford, Director of Research at the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation which is based at Greenslopes Private Hospital.

Professor Crawford said patients with PTSD were more likely to have risk factors for fatty liver disease, as well as being more likely to have an altered liver appearance on ultrasound.

“Liver disease in its early stage often presents with fatigue, lack of energy, and abdominal discomfort. It is important for GPs to advise patients about acceptable alcohol intake, address other lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise, and highlight the importance of maintaining normal body weight,” he said.

“Obesity and use of alcohol and cigarettes are found more commonly in veterans with PTSD,” said Professor Bruce Lawford, Psychiatrist at Greenslopes Private Hospital’s Keith Payne Unit.

“Our research emphasises that General Practitioner interventions are of greater importance in this group of patients compared to the population in general. Studies have shown exercise improves cognition and increases brain volume in combat veterans with PTSD,” said Professor Lawford.

“PTSD is also a risk factor for Alzheimer’s dementia and exercise shows promise as a protective factor for this disorder.”

A team of highly-trained specialists from Greenslopes Private Hospital collaborated with the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation to shed more light on the effects of PTSD.

Findings from the three year study have been used to create an Australia-wide education and awareness campaign. The GP Education Program is now accessible to 50,000 GPs and medical professionals.

“This will hopefully help clinicians identify PTSD earlier before it becomes a life-threatening illness and will vastly improve the recovery and quality of life for veterans and the community at large,” said Miriam Dwyer, CEO of the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation.

More than one million Australians - who suffer from PTSD at some stage in their lives - are expected to benefit from the findings.

The PTSD Initiative is part of an overall $7 million research program funded by RSL Queensland.

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