Patients with TBI, sleep disorders can get treatment at new Tripler clinics

| October 22, 2010 | 0 Comments

Sgt. Matthew Coleman
Joint Commission Office, Tripler Army Medical Center

HONOLULU — A new Concussion Clinic and a new four-bed Sleep Lab were officially opened at grand opening ceremonies at Tripler Army Medical Center, here, Monday.

Treatment for traumatic brain injuries has been centralized with the creation of the Concussion Clinic. Previously, TBI patients had to visit numerous clinics for care. 

The clinic’s staff focuses on treating the symptoms associated with TBI, such as memory loss, sleep problems and anger management. 

“When your brain gets injured, we try to bridge over the parts that don’t work, or retrain them,” said Dr. Gregory Johnson, one of the clinic’s two family medicine physicians. “With our primary purpose being to treat those service men and women who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, we are about making Soldiers as functional in society as possible.” 

“Most people do quite well and return to duty,” Johnson continued. “We have to help them find their way back. I think that’s the rewarding part of my job, because most people end up making great progress.” 

The clinic is seeing all patients, whether referred by physicians, chain of command or family, to include walk-ins. 

TBI patients throughout the Pacific region can also be seen for TBI without having to travel to Tripler, through the TeleHealth program. For example, patients in American Samoa can get treatment at the TBI TeleHealth Center located in the Veterans Affairs Center, there. 

“Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, I have (patients in American Samoa) scheduled,” Johnson said. “I can just turn (toward the monitor), and they’re right there.” 

The second of the new clinics, the Sleep Lab, is one of Tripler’s newest additions designed to improve a patient’s sleep disorders.

The lab offers a multidisciplinary approach to target specific body systems causing sleep problems. 

Dr. (Maj.) Sean Dooley and Dr. Christine Fukui, two of the physicians overseeing the effort, said that sleep studies address issues such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and sleepwalking.

The Sleep Lab is open Monday through Friday, for daytime and overnight monitoring of patients. 

“The rooms are homey with dark curtains, mirrors above the sink, a television on the wall and, overall, (is) less-sterile looking than the average hospital room,” said Brenda Horner, VA liaison to the Sleep Lab. 

Administrative staff, sleep technicians and physicians man the lab. The Sleep Lab works on a referral system, so prospective patients must first visit with their primary care provider to get a referral. Until now, Tripler and the VA have had to refer more than 2,500 patients annually to outside organizations. With the opening of the Sleep Lab, at least 600 of those can receive care at Tripler, reducing network referrals.

“In the future, we hope to do home sleep studies, which is really the only feasible way to do enough,” Fukui said. “With recent technology, home studies have become quite accurate.” 

Plans are also in the works for a Sleep Disorder Center. 

“We are really excited about the plan to be a Sleep Disorder Center that provides follow-up care for all sleep issues, not simply a Sleep Lab that only performs obstructive sleep apnea studies,” Dooley said. 

“There really are no labs with facilities and technologists like these; we want to be the best Sleep Disorder Center in the state,” Fukui said.

“The Sleep Disorder Center will enable Soldiers to get the care that they need all within the confines of Tripler,” said Brig. Gen. Keith Gallagher, commanding general, Tripler. “This will certainly add to the repertoire of services that we have here at Tripler, to better health and to better life for many of the patients coming through here.”

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