Medical researchers working on every injury always have the ultimate hope that there will be a “magic bullet” cure which will return patients to normal. History shows that, at times, this actual bears fruit. Diseases and ailments of the past have occasionally been completely eradicated thanks to simple cures or preventative tools that were discovered.
However, it would be naive to suggest that something so complex as a traumatic brain injury will have a simple fix in the form of a pill or a shot. After all, the brain is, by far, the most complex organ in the body. There is still so much that we do not know about the brain, how it works, how it heals, and how it is damaged.
The complexity of the task does not necessarily mean that there is no hope for medical researchers to find some treatment options that can bring significant improvements for brain injury victims in simple ways. In fact, some researchers are suggesting that they may have done just that. As reported in a recent story on their work, experts out of Duke University believe that a simple hormone may prove to be immensely beneficial for those head injury sufferers.
Reason for Hope
The article recounts the story of one young man who suffered a head injury in a strange auto accident. He was in the back of a pick-up truck when it began rolling to a stop. The young man lost his balance and tumbled out of the truck–he hit his head hard and suffered the brain injury. After the accident he was rushed to a local emergency room where doctors tried to limit the brain swelling. In some cases this is done by removing a portion of the skull and relieving the pressure on the brain. Getting this swelling and pressure under control is a key to ensuring that long-term harm is avoided.
In this twenty-two year old man’s case, when he entered the emergency room, doctors asked his mother–who was making medical decisions on his behalf–if she wanted her son enrolled in a trial for a brain injury treatment test. She agreed. Specifically, he participated in a phase III trial involving the hormone progesterone. Progesterone is a natural hormone that, in earlier trials, proved successful at limiting swelling and minimizing the effect of a TBI.
The family does not know if their son received a placebo or the real thing However, the young man’s mother believes that the injection of the hormone is what saved his life. Researchers point out that the hormone usually needs to be given within 8 hours of the injury. Because this was a phase III trial, if this test works then medical professionals may be able to develop actual treatments to be used for TBI victims using the hormone injections.
Considering the severe long-term consequences of TBI, it is incredibly encouraging that there may soon be a few simple treatment tools to help limit the harm. This hormone, brain “cooling,” and other recent advances suggest that, slowly but surely, medical experts will expand the treatment options for all those affected by a brain injury. We can only hope that these advances come sooner rather than later.
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