18 Nov New Frontiers In TBI Treatments
German researchers believe they are closing in on a surgical intervention which can permanently restore damaged cells in Traumatic Brain Injury victims.
Scientists have long suspected that such restoration can only come about by transplanting neurons into the brain, but since neurons are so highly specialized and have such strong attachments to each other, progress has been slow because the transplantation is difficult to achieve. As any Los Angeles brain injury attorney knows, a TBI is generally permanent. Recently, however, German scientists transplanted embryonic neurons into brain-damaged rats, and within a month, the animals were fully responsive and the new connections seemed to be developing normally. Sunil Gandhi of the University of California called the findings “very exciting for its potential for cell-based repair for brains.”
Although the potential is there, significant challenges remain. These results came about in controlled laboratory conditions, and no one is sure what would happen if the technique is applied to animals who suffer trauma-induced brain injuries. Scar tissue is another concern. So, it may be several decades before this procedure can provide effective relief for human TBI victims.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
At this point, “dead brain cells do not regenerate” is the medical equivalent of death and taxes, because there is simply no way for the estimated 1.7 million people who suffer TBIs every year to fully regain lost function. Part of the problem is that these injuries are often misdiagnosed, because doctors sometimes ascribe confusion to early-onset dementia and not all victims react the same way (e.g. some are completely unconscious while others remain semi-conscious).
Later, the confusion and unconsciousness give way to sleeplessness, personality changes, and other symptoms that make it difficult or impossible to function at home, at work, or at school. Eventually, victims will develop dementia-like symptoms and experience loss of function.
Currently, extensive physical therapy is usually the best treatment option. Until recently, many doctors stopped such therapy after a few weeks or months, because they believed most patients would show only incremental improvement. However, San Diego researchers recently discovered that long-term physical therapy yields up to 50 percent better results, so many doctors may have ended therapy too soon. Moreover, long-term therapy actually realigned some molecules, creating a platform for even more treatment as new techniques arise.
All these developments are very exciting, and they also cost money. Indeed, some patients may have prematurely ended their physical therapy because they could no longer afford it. Financially, injury recovery is a very trying time, because as medical bills pile up, there is often little or no income coming in. Making matters worse, some health insurance companies do not cover injury-related losses, for liability reasons.
An attorney helps tremendously in both the short and long terms, particularly with TBIs. To ensure that victims get the medical treatment they need, an attorney sends letters of protection to third-party providers. This correspondence guarantees that the providers will be paid when the dispute is resolved, so victims can go to the doctor and therapist without cost. Additionally, an attorney will negotiate with these providers to reduce their fees, which means more money in the victim’s pocket.
The final award covers a wide array of direct and indirect damages. For example, if Victor Victim is partially paralyzed because of a TBI, he must modify his home with wider halls, wheelchair ramps, and other accommodations, and a jury will normally award money for all these expenses.
Statistically, older people over 65 and younger children under 10 are the most at-risk age groups, mostly because of the types of incidents that normally bring about TBIs.
- Falls: 2.8 million older Americans fall each year. Many of them sustain TBIs because they are already physically frail. If the fall happens in a public place, the landowner is probably responsible for damages; if the fall occurs at home because of a defective product, the manufacturer may be liable.
- Pedestrian-Auto Collisions: Older adults are often unable to avoid oncoming cars, and tortfeasors (negligent drivers) often do not spot young children.
- Auto-Auto Collisions: When a vehicle strikes a solid object and stops suddenly, people and objects inside the car keep moving at the same speed until they too strike solid objects, like a window or a person’s head.
- Explosive Blasts: Scientists speculate that sudden loud noises create shock waves and disrupt brain functions; the same thing may occur after short-term exposure to very loud noises or long-term exposure to lower noise levels.
To establish liability in any of these cases, the victims must prove that the tortfeasors violated a legal duty of care, and that said violation caused damages. Victims are entitled to economic and noneconomic damages, and punitive damages as well, in some cases. TBIs are serious, but they often improve after expensive and long-term treatments.