NBC Nightly News
Staff Sgt. Nick Lewis is on patrol in Afghanistan, which is a long way away from his hometown of San Francisco.
Troops fighting in Afghanistan, including Camp Pendleton-based Marines, will soon have better access to cutting-edge technology to help diagnose and treat traumatic brain injury (TBI).
TBI has become the signature injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with approximately 17 to 22 percent of troops returning from Afghanistan believed to have some level of brain injury.
On Wednesday, Naval Medical Logistics Command (NMLC) announced the award of a contract for two mobile Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) systems to Philips Healthcare.
The move creates unprecedented MRI capability for deployed forces as part of the overall comprehensive approach to diagnosing and treating concussive injuries according to a U.S. Navy news release.
Having the technology in battlefield trauma care may lead to cutting-edge discoveries in the diagnosis, treatment and enhanced follow-up care for wounded troops.
James B. Poindexter, commanding officer of NMLC, said the MRI systems destined for Afghanistan are unlike anything commercially available.
The units need to be self-contained, requiring that they be designed from the ground up to account for the many unique and challenging working environments that will be encountered in combat theater such as vast temperature differences, fine blowing sand and power issues.
They must also meet size and weight requirements to be capable of being airlifted into theater.
"We are taking prudent measures to ensure successful deployment of this important equipment by late summer," said Poindexter. "We continue to aggressively address every element involved including engineering, logistical and technical issues."