Researchers to Test New Device that Could “Jump Start” the Brains of Comatose Patients
Each year, around 1.7 million Americans suffer from a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Of those, 275,000 are hospitalized for serious injuries, such as a coma. Unfortunately, not all of these treated patients will survive. Others may be stuck in a vegetative state for much – if not all – of their lives. A new device, which was recently used to stimulate the brain of a comatose patient in California, seeks to change all of that. Learn more about this revolutionary treatment, and what rights you have if someone you love has been placed in a coma due to someone else’s negligence.
How a TBI Leads to Coma
Not all traumatic brain injury sufferers will experience a coma. Likewise, not all patients who end up in a coma have suffered a TBI. There is, however, a distinct correlation between the two conditions. Traumatic brain injuries, which are caused by a blow or sudden jarring of the head, can cause bruising or bleeding to the brain that may lead to swelling. If severe enough, the victim could become comatose. Alternatively, doctors may choose to place a TBI sufferer into a medically-induced coma to encourage healing and reduce swelling.
Unfortunately, once a TBI sufferer becomes comatose, it can be difficult to pull them back out again, even when the coma has been medically-induced. Some may become only partially conscious, able only to provide “yes” or “no” responses to questions and possibly reach for something before fading back out again. Others may not rouse at all, staying in what physicians refer to as a “vegetative” state. In either case, the condition and its effects can last for years, and may even extend to the remainder of the patient’s life.
How the New Device Works
Developed by a team of physicians and neuroscientists at the University of California, the new device sends concentrated, targeted ultrasound waves to the thalamus – a part of the brain that has been shown to be important in restoring consciousness to the body. It was successfully used on a man who had been rendered comatose after being hit by a car. The man had been placed into a medically induced coma and had had a portion of his skull removed to relieve some of the pressure on his brain, but when doctors went to pull him out of the coma one week later, he was not responsive. Doctors placed him back under for another week.
When he was brought out of his coma for a second time, the man was said to reach for objects and opened and closed his eyes, as if he were waking up and sleeping, but did not seem to show any signs of actual comprehension. Doctors began the ultrasound treatments and, within just one day, he began to recognize objects and even attempted to use a spoon. Three days later, he was able to respond to simple questions with gestures. By four months, he was ready to leave the hospital.
Sadly, it may be a long time before this device will be used on comatose patients throughout the country. The research and development team has had trouble getting funding for their research. They also readily admit that it can be difficult to determine how much of a patient’s recovery is due to the device, and how much is simply a part of healing. This can complicate the testing process and may even lead to serious delays when it comes to getting approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
Negligence a Factor in the Coma of Your Loved One? You May Be Due Compensation
When negligence, such as distracted driving or drunk driving, causes coma or other severe injury in a victim, the family may be able to seek compensation. Able to help cover medical expenses and losses that may have been experienced because of a lost income, this can help to alleviate some of the stress that the family may be feeling after an accident. Unfortunately, receiving such compensation – particularly an amount that is fair and just – can be extremely difficult for victims and their families.
At Herrling Clark Law Firm, Ltd., we work had to give families the time and energy they need to focus on their day-to-day lives. We handle the complex legal details and fight against insurance companies that try to discount the extent of their losses. Skilled advocates and aggressive litigators, we will protect your interest, and the interest of your loved one. Contact our Appleton, Wisconsin personal injury attorneys to learn more. Call 920-739-7366 and schedule a consultation today.