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Researchers Identify Potential Biomarker for Poor Traumatic Brain Injury Outcomes in Children

by John Gomez | Last Updated: April 24, 2017

An alarming number of children in the United States suffer traumatic brain injuries every year. As the number of children suffering traumatic brain injuries continues to rise, we continue to learn more about how to treat them. Unfortunately, not all traumatic brain injury outcomes are positive. At this point, it is difficult to determine why some children who suffer traumatic brain injuries seem to progress towards a full recovery while others continue to struggle with brain injury symptoms months and even years after they are hurt. The results of a new study have showed some promise, however, in terms of understanding why this occurs. The researchers believe that they may have identified a biomarker that could help predict how a child will do in his or her recovery from a traumatic brain injury. If so, that could make foreseeing traumatic brain injury outcomes easier.

About the Traumatic Brain Injury Outcomes Study

Researchers from UCLA, the University of Southern California and the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles completed the study. Those who want to review the abstract can find it here. The reason for the study was because the researchers wanted to find out if there were any answers to the growing issue of progressive cognitive decline. Currently, approximately half of the children who suffer moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries face this negative outcome.

The researchers studied 21 children, 16 of whom were male and 5 were female. All of them had suffered moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries and had been treated in intensive care units in Los Angeles County. They were all between 8 and 18 years old. They had been injured in ways that are all too typical for young people when it comes to traumatic brain injuries, including:

  • Automobile/pedestrian accidents
  • Falls from skateboards
  • Car accidents
  • Falls from bicycles
  • Falls from scooters

The researchers assessed each of the subjects twice. The first assessment occurred between 2 and 5 months after the injury, and the second took place between 13 and 19 months after the initial diagnosis. The researchers compared the results of these assessments to a control group of 20 children who had never suffered traumatic brain injuries. The assessments consisted of using MRIs and EEGs to measure the level of functioning with the corpus callosum as well as that of their brains’ white matter.

Specifically, the researchers were working to identify what is known as the interhemispheric transfer time, or IHTT. The corpus callosum is the band of nerve fibers that joins the two hemispheres of the brain. Understanding how quickly messages are transmitted in this manner helps define the level of functionality within the brain. The researchers also used tests to determine the integrity of the white matter of the brain. Like the corpus callosum, the white matter performs the function of transmitting messages within the brain.

What the Researchers Found

The first assessment involved the tests mentioned above being run while the children watched a movie and wore headphones. They also had their attention and memory skills tested. In findings consistent with the negative traumatic brain injury outcomes mentioned above, the researchers found that 10 of the 21 injured children suffered from slowed brain functioning while 11 had brain signaling speeds within a normal range and comparable to the control group.

The second assessment seemed to confirm the pattern. The 10 children who tested within the normal ranges during the first round of testing continued to test within what are considered normal ranges for message transmission within the brain. However, the 11 children who struggled during the first assessment not only did not improve between the rounds of testing, but their level of brain functioning had actually continued to decline.

What This All Means

What this could all mean is that we may now or soon be able to establish a way to predict traumatic brain injury outcomes early on after someone is injured. If this is truly a biomarker, doctors may be able to identify those patients who could be facing negative traumatic brain injury outcomes. If that occurs, those patients could undergo different treatments that could help them avoid this negative progression and give them a better chance to overcome their brain injuries. The researchers, based on these findings, have called for larger studies to be done in order to derive a potentially more definitive answer to this relatively new question.

Traumatic Brain Injury Statistics In Young Americans

One of the reasons that the results of this study are so promising is because so many young people in the United States suffer traumatic brain injuries every year. According to the Brain Injury Association of America, the following statistics relate to traumatic brain injuries in young people:

Americans 19 Years Old and Younger

  • 62,000 suffer traumatic brain injuries requiring hospitalization.
  • 564,000 report to emergency departments after suffering blows to the head.

Americans 14 Years Old and Younger

  • 2,685 die as a result of traumatic brain injuries.
  • 37,000 suffer traumatic brain injuries that require hospitalization.
  • 435,000 report to emergency departments after suffering blows to the head.

Early intervention on cases where it’s possible that a child could face progressive cognitive decline could make a positive difference in thousands of patients every single year in the United States alone.

How Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyers Can Help

The statistics above also indicate that thousands of young people in the United States suffer traumatic brain injuries every year because of the negligent acts of others. Families who are forced to face these difficult recoveries often find themselves in situations where they are unsure of where to turn for help as their stress and medical bills continue to mount. If this has happened to you or someone you love, you need to take immediate action to make sure that you protect and enforce your legal rights. You can do so by contacting the traumatic brain injury lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys as soon as possible for a free case evaluation.

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