Nov. 26, 2002 ST. PAUL, MN – As in the United States, United Kingdom veterans who were deployed to the Gulf War in 1990 to 1991 have reported a higher prevalence of neuromuscular symptoms than soldiers who served elsewhere.
Much debate and several medical studies, as well as conspiracy and cover-up theories, have commenced over the years regarding troops' exposures to potentially hazardous substances during the Gulf conflict.
A recent study, published in the November 26 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology, finds no Gulf War association with specific impairments of peripheral nerves, neuromuscular junction or skeletal muscles. "By including representative comparison groups, and through the use of robust and highly sensitive neurophysiologic tests, we provide convincing evidence that the symptoms reported by Gulf War veterans are not associated with objective dysfunction resulting from service in the Gulf," said study author M. K. Sharief, MD, PhD, of Guy's Hospital, London.
For the study, 142 military men from the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force were randomly selected from 8,195 service personnel who had completed health and health outcomes questionnaires in 1997 and 1998. Subjects included those who were deployed to the Gulf region during the 1990 – 1991 conflict, to the Bosnia conflict between 1992 and 1997, and those UK servicemen who served during the Gulf War but were not deployed there. Of the 142 selected, 110 consented to participate, representing four clinical groups: 26 "healthy" Gulf War veterans, 49 symptomatic Gulf War veterans, 13 symptomatic Bosnian veterans, and 22 symptomatic troops who were not deployed to the Gulf region.
Symptoms reported among the subjects included fatigue, joint stiffness, muscle weakness, muscle pain (myalgia), sensory symptoms such as numbness, and autonomic symptoms such as Gulf War And Veterans' Neuromuscular disturbances of bladder, bowel, or sexual functions.
Researchers conducted clinical assessments and nerve conduction studies, quantitative sensory and autonomic function tests, and electromyography with all subjects. "Physical examinations of all participants were generally unremarkable," notes Sharief. Manual testing of muscle power and coordination, assessment of deep tendon reflexes, and clinical sensory evaluation showed no abnormalities.
Detailed sensory nerve conduction studies of the Gulf-ill veterans were comparable to the other three groups and a battery of sensory and autonomic testing revealed no real differences between the groups. Advanced EMG studies also failed to show any significant abnormalities among the four groups of servicemen.
This study was funded by the UK Ministry of Defence, which had no input into the design, conduct, analysis or reporting of the study.
The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 18,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research.
For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit its website at http://www.aan.com.
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