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Treating a Traumatic Brain Injury

  • Synopsis: Published: 2009-02-27 (Rev. 2010-10-08) - Side effects of TBI are severe and can range from a coma or death to cognitive disorders to social and behavioral issues to mental and physical disability. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Peter Kent.

Main Document

While research into prevention and treatment for traumatic brain injuries (TBI), it still continues to be a top condition affecting millions of Americans annually.

The side effects of TBI are severe and can range from a coma or death to cognitive disorders to social and behavioral issues to mental and physical disability.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), common TBI disabilities include difficulties with cognition disability - affecting memory and reasoning; communication through expression and understanding; sensory processing, affecting the five senses in various combination's and ways; behavior and mental health problems ranging from personality changes to increased aggression to social inappropriateness; and TBI can also cause an individual to become unresponsive and even fall into a coma.

TBI can range from mild to severe but some victims often don't ever recover from the serious side effects associated with TBI. Luckily, with advances in technology a breadth of emerging alternative treatments and research methods are being developed to help lessen and even cure the ill effects of a severe brain injury.

A Tidal Wave of Brain Injury Treatment Research

The U.S. National Institute of Health currently monitors and recruits over 150 clinical trials for TBI victims ranging from preventing epilepsy in a victim after TBI to continued research for Vietnam head injuries to TBI-related hormone deficiency treatments of adults.

Testing For TBI Injuries Gets a One-Up

One of the most recent TBI research studies was completed by senior author and neurology professor at UT Southwestern in Dallas, Ramon Diaz-Arrastia, M.D., Ph.D. A new method of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) analyzation has been discovered by Diaz-Arrastia, with help and contribution from other scientists. Diffuse axonal injury (DAI) is a condition that is often forgotten, but it is addressed in this study.

Axons are a type of nerve cell often affected by DAI.

An automobile accident or similar TBI accident can be the cause of the injury, which occurs when head movement is disrupted unexpectedly. DAI often goes undetected even with the most advanced computerized tomography scans or MRIs. Scientists use a technique in this method deriving from a mathematical analysis known as diffusion tensor tractography where water, which has been released by damaged axons, is monitored to determine healthy axons, which absorb water, compared to dead axons, which release water when they die.

Real-time brain activity scans have been developed to accurately assess a TBI patient. The scan is known as magnetoencephalography (MEG) and allows victims who suffer from TBI-induced epilepsy to find reprieve through more accurate diagnosis and monitoring.

According to Anto Bagic, M.D., a neurologist at the Center for Advanced Brain Magnetic Source Imaging at UPMC in Pittsburgh, who was recently quoted in news reports, the imaging scan allows for thousands of magnetic field samples of brain activity to be recorded every second, which is unlike any other scan. Additionally, when using a combination of the MEG scan with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), it will enable neurosurgeons to have a detailed map of the brain allowing them to remove damaged tissues and keep healthy tissue intact.

Cognitive Developmental Methods

One of the most researched and augmented methods of treatment for TBI deals with cognitive repair and it's controversy is often discussed among the science and medical community. Many argue that permanent injuries cannot be changed, however, as researchers are learning, it is becoming more noted that the winning side of this argument sees that once thought as a permanent injury can actually be reversed. A recent study completed by the Laboratoire de Neurobiologie des Processus Adaptatifs found exactly this when TBI victims that suffered from brain damage are likely to have the ability to restore cerebral function.

Scientists found that by development of a small amount of new and specifically targeted innervations proves successful in restoring cerebral functions. Re-innervation is when nerve function restoration occurs, often through nerve grafting. The scientists found that with behavioral tests, there was a high success rate of new cell axons "interacting with the network of undamaged neuronal cells to restore their associated functions, such as synchronized movement and spatial orientation," according to a Science Daily news report. Previously, researchers were using a large amount of non-specific connections when attempting re-innervation.

Uncovering Controversial Drug Treatments

There are a multitude of medications available on the market that allegedly treat of a TBI injury, however, as dangerous medications slip onto shelves and under the radar of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) it is important to research and understand any and all medications prescribed after a TBI accident.

An example of semi-controversial drug treatments comes from a recent research team at the Hangzhou Normal University. Researchers there concluded a study that uncovered a common component found in progesterone, which is a contraceptive pill, "may actually improve the neurological outcome for patients with severe head injuries." The team, supervised by Weiqi Yan, a professor, that the female hormone may be a safe and effective treatment, although the test could not expand on the neuroprotective effects. However, the results did conclude that progesterone was adequate in treating individuals with a TBI for up to six months.

Likewise, a rather interestingly and debatable study by a group of physicians reported on the link of alcohol blood content levels among TBI patients who survived. The physicians recently discovered that patients who had a low- to moderate-level of alcohol in their bloodstreams after arriving at the hospital because of a TBI-related accident were less likely to die or become worse because of the alcohol, which physicians believe to act as a neuroprotective. Neuro-protection occurs after a brain-related injury and happens when a mechanism in the nervous system protects cells and neurons within the brain from degeneration.

However, individuals with a significantly high amount of blood alcohol in their system were more likely at risk for death. But the study suggested an interesting method that may be explored where administering small doses of alcohol into patients of TBI upon arrival may improve their outcome. Research on this subject will still need to be done before a conclusive outcome can be stated on this very controversial study.

Protecting and Healing TBI Victims

Because TBI is so prevalent in the United States it is important to understand that there is are vast plenitude of causes of brain injury as well as types of brain injuries, symptoms and treatments. The best way to protect an individual suffering from TBI is to consult a medical professional immediately. Once a victim has been diagnosed, it will be apparent that medical bills can quickly calculate to large sums of money, which is why speaking with an experienced traumatic brain injury law firm is also just as important to protect and heal a brain injury victim.



Related:

  1. Youth Basketball and Brain Injuries: A Disturbing Upward Trend
  2. Relationships Following a Brain Injury
  3. Traumatic Brain Injury Survivor Story



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