According to an article from the Association of American Medical Colleges, there are several new treatments on the horizon for traumatic brain injuries or TBIs. These treatments hold out hope for the present and future victims of TBIs that recovery may be possible in cases that previously would have resulted in a lifetime of disability.
The Extent of the Problem
Every year, more than 1.7 million people are victims of traumatic brain injury. More than 280,00 of these victims are hospitalized as a result of their injures, and 50,000 of them die. Car accidents, falls and other traumas are common causes of TBIs, and many victims arrive at the hospital only to find that treatment options are limited.
Now, however, there is hope on the horizon for TBI victims in the form of several experimental treatments that are showing promise. These treatments may reduce the severity of TBI symptoms initially, as well as provide a reduction of long-term effects. Here are some of the exciting possibilities:
- A study conducted at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio examined the idea that brain inflammation after a TBI affects electrical currents in nerves which leads to seizures. Using an injection that activates proteins that interfere with abnormal electrical signals, researchers were able to reduce post-TBI seizures in injured mice to almost the same level as those who were not injured. This is exciting news for a possible emergency room-available injection that could be given to TBI patients in an effort to forestall later complications.
- Boston University has announced plans to study 20 former female soccer players to determine the role of “headers,” or bouncing the ball against the head during play, in causing chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE. Researchers are basing this study on previous studies that examined the role of CTE in progressive brain degeneration after an accident. They hope to be able to find diagnostic tools that can quickly identify CTE in the hope of beginning treatment at a much earlier point than the current norm.
- A recent study noted that the error rate for determining consciousness during a coma is 30 to 40 percent, and a team at the Spaulding-Harvard TBI Model System is trying to change that. Using functional MRI, this team has been able to detect conscious thought in various areas of the brain in patients who were previously thought to be completely comatose. The team is using this information to help revise the Coma Recovery Scale, a tool used to assess comatose patients. This same team is also working on research into using blood markers to assess TBI.
- The Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium, or CENC, has been researching both age-related and combat-related TBI. They have found that veterans who experienced TBI have significantly higher risks for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Risks also increase with subsequent TBIs: those who have suffered three or more head injuries are at particular risk. Studies are currently underway to assess risk factors for veterans and the elderly and possibly change treatment protocols based on these findings.
- One of the most intriguing studies, underwritten by Elon Musk and Neuralink, proposes using a hearing-aid type device that communicates via Bluetooth with a chip implanted in the brain to improve motor function or interact with robotic limbs. This could mean that those suffering from TBI or spinal cord injuries could eventually regain lost motor function.
At Barber & Associates, we are always encouraged by new treatments for TBI. Because we see the devastating effects of these injuries, we continue to hope that new treatments will be unveiled that will give victims a chance at a healthier and brighter future.