PTSD and Respiratory Illness Long-Term Problem Among 9/11 Responders

First Posted: Sep 13, 2014 03:12 AM EDT

A team of researchers has found that even years after the attack, most of the 9/11 World Trade Centre responders continue to experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and respiratory illness.

In the 9/11 terrorist attack at the World Trade Center, several rescue and recovery workers descended to the site. These first responders were exposed to both environmental disaster and mental trauma. In this study, the researchers looked at the association between the health problems - two main health issues among the WYC responder's i.e. respiratory illness and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The researchers at Stony Brook Medicine's World Trade Center Health Program found that among 60 percent of the 9/11 WTC responders PTSD and respiratory illness appears to be a long-term problem.

According to Benjamin Luft, MD, Medical Director of the Program and Edmund D. Pellegrino Professor of Medicine, the conditions often coexist in the responder that can be considered as a single ailment together - a signature illness of WTC responders. It is illness that increases the person's disability and further complicates the long term medical monitoring and care.

"Now more than 10 years after 9/11, the connection between mental and physical illnesses among responders appears stronger," said Dr. Luft. "This connection raises important questions about the mechanisms underlying the PTSD and respiratory illness relationship. The next step in our research is to determine how comorbid physical and mental conditions impact the progression of clinical disease and genetic changes in these responders."

Currently, the researchers are working on five novel projects that aim at evaluating the extent of mental and physical illness in nearly 100 responders. They basically plan on identifying the pathway that ties the two conditions together and identify the biomarkers that can be targets for diagnosis and treatment.

In the next two years, the WTC Health Program will get $4 million funds from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"It is alarming see our World Trade Center responders suffer from a combination of debilitating psychiatric and physical conditions affecting both their quality and duration of life," said Dr. Luft. "We hope new data will help us to treat and monitor them more effectively in the long-term."

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