Faster computers and better software are
uncovering hidden medical problems. More powerful statistical analysis, of a
growing number of new medical tests, has enabled U.S. military doctors to
detect physical and psychological problems soldiers didn't even knew they had,
and that oftenwould not turn into
painful or debilitating conditions for decades (unless treated long before
that.) To take advantage of this new capability, the U.S. Army is now giving
troops annual medical exams. Previously, this was only done every five years.
In addition, since the war in Iraq began, troops have been getting physicals
before they went to a combat zone, and after they returned.
Medical technology has made much
progress in the last decade, in developing new tests, or better ways to analyze
data collected from tests that have been around for a while. Moreover, the vast
amount of medical data collected from World War II, Korea and Vietnam combat
veterans (who developed problems years later and got treated at Veterans
Administration hospitals) can now be analyzed with more powerful software, and
in light of problems those wartime injuries eventually developed into. This has
enabled seemingly minor battlefield injuries to be identified as something that
will become serious eventually, if not treated sooner. The annual medical exams
will make it possible to catch injuries and diseases like these as early as
possible. The end result will be seen in four or five decades, when Iraq war
veterans end up having fewer combat related problems than their World War II
era grandfathers did.