March is brain injury awareness month

The Brain Injury Association of America leads the nation in observing Brain Injury Awareness Month by conducting an awareness campaign in March each year. The theme for the 2015 to 2017 campaign is: Not Alone.

Every 13 seconds, someone in the United States sustains a traumatic brain injury (TBI). These injuries can range from mild to severe, and often have life-long and devastating effects on the patient and their family. Every year, the Brain Injury Awareness Association of American (BIAA) dedicates March as Brain Injury Awareness Month in order to build awareness around one of the most challenging diseases to diagnose and treat.

This year’s theme is “Not Alone.” According to the BIAA, at least 5.3 million people live with TBI-related disabilities. The road to recovery can seem impossibly daunting for patients, who can experience symptoms like memory deficits and impaired motor function, and also their caretakers.  However, with the help the BIAA provides in connecting those affected by TBI to rehabilitative, legal, financial, and other support services, people suffering from TBI-related disabilities can hope to face much better outcomes.

During Brain Injury Awareness Month, MCIRCC recognizes the Joyce and Don Massey Family Foundation and their incredibly generous gift to U-M to help accelerate innovative research in TBI. Most recently, their gift supported the Massey Foundation TBI Grand Challenge, which will fund teams to develop innovative diagnostic, device, therapeutic, or health information technology solutions that address the early hours of care following a TBI. Treatment administered during this critical period can determine patient survival, and have a significant effect on long-term function and disability.

There are many challenges facing clinicians who treat TBI patients and breakthroughs in innovation are tough without philanthropic support from donors such as the Massey Foundation. Current diagnostic tools such as X-rays and CT scans are limited in their capability to detect microscopic injuries to the brain and monitoring techniques, such as intracranial pressure monitoring, are invasive and can increase the risk of infection and further brain damage. There is also a lack of treatment options that help repair damage to the brain, as treatments administered to TBI patients only serve to halt further brain damage.

Several research projects, funded by the Massey Foundation, are currently underway. Technology development projects that gained funding in 2015 include:

  • a real-time analytics tool that detects the early onset of hemodynamic instability to avoid secondary brain insults and injuries;

  • a rapid and non-invasive assessment of intracranial pressure using ultrasound and impedance measurements of the eye; and

  • an automated brain imaging analysis system that detects:

    • Edema and the location of edema.

    • Detects hematoma and the severity of hematoma.

    • Estimates the midline shift and the location of the midline shift.

    • Predicts intracranial pressure and the severity of Intracranial Pressure. 

Translational science projects that gained funding in 2015 include:

  • early administration of plasma and valproic acid (a brain protecting drug) to decrease the degree of brain injury and improve the speed of recovery;

  • the use of cancer medication Imatinib, also known as Gleevec, to protect the injured brain cells;

  • treatment with an iron binding agent, deferoxamine, to reduce brain injury after traumatic brain hemorrhage; and

  • administration of branch chain amino acids and memantine to attenuate the traumatic brain damage.

Additional TBI research projects will be funded in 2016, which will be announced in May.

MCIRCC is proud to help facilitate the work of researchers as they strive to make an impact by revolutionizing the diagnosis and treatment of TBI. Their work, supported by generous donors such as the Massey Foundation, will improve the lives of TBI patients and their families.