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Traumatic Brain Injuries: Potential New Treatment Creates Hope for the Future
Choulos Choulos & Wyle
(415) 432-7290

A groundbreaking new study by a San Francisco Brain Injury doctor found that the key to treating or preventing the long-term effects of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) could lie in a specific molecule, previously overlooked by researchers.

Dr. Jeanne Paz of San Francisco’s Gladstone Institutes published the study in Science. Paz and her colleagues identified the molecule, called C1q, in the thalamus – a part of the brain that can cause TBI side effects that are delayed for months or years after the injury. These side effects, exacerbated by C1q, include seizures, inflammation, neuron death, trouble sleeping and more.

The cerebral cortex, which sits just under the skull and is usually the first point of injury during a head trauma, has received the most recent attention from scientists working on TBI treatments. But Paz’s research found higher amounts of C1q in the thalamus than in the cortex, suggesting the thalamus may hold new treatment possibilities. 

Her team also discovered many of those head injury symptoms never appeared if C1q were blocked with an antibody during the “latent phase.” This is the time between injury and the delayed onset of long-term symptoms. The antibody has already been created and is in active clinical trials. These recent brain injury research findings could lead to much more effective treatment for TBI survivors.

Traumatic Brain Injuries Lead to Lifelong Struggles

The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) defines a traumatic brain injury as “an alteration in brain function, or other evidence of brain pathology, caused by an external force.”

TBIs often carry devastating long-term consequences long after obvious external injuries have healed. In fact, brain injuries are the leading cause of death for children and adults under 45. Annually, about 2.5 million people sustain a TBI, and 50,000 of those are fatal. About 80,000 traumatic brain injuries result in permanent disability. 

Causes of TBI include:

  • Falls, especially among the elderly
  • Blows to the head/assault
  • Motor vehicle collisions
  • Motorcycle collisions
  • Bicycle collisions
  • Pedestrian Collisions
  • Gunshot
  • Domestic/child abuse
  • Military blast injury

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) can range from mild (e.g., a concussion) to severe (a gunshot to the head). Severe TBI can cause coma or paralysis, permanent brain damage or vision loss, or the inability to perform basic life tasks (using the bathroom, walking, speaking, reading, etc.) without assistance. Survivors of brain injury might have trouble with memory and logic, interacting with others, sleeping or controlling their bladder, using their five senses to process information or regulating emotional behavior. And those are just a few examples.

Related: Traumatic Brain Injuries, Even Those Titled “Mild” Also Raise the Risk of Dementia

Children and seniors are affected differently by a TBI than average adults. Since the brains of younger people are still forming, children who have suffered a traumatic brain injury may be unable to fully develop into functioning adults; in a senior with existing health problems, a TBI may go undetected entirely, especially after a car accident or fall.

Because a TBI can affect virtually any part of cognitive or motor functions, diagnosing brain injury can be difficult. Warning signs of a TBI include, but certainly are not limited to:

  • Clear fluid leaking from ears or nose
  • Balance, coordination or speaking problems
  • Blurred vision and slurred speech
  • Slow pulse, lethargy or muscle weakness
  • Ringing in the ears or vomiting
  • Inappropriate social or emotional behavior
  • New problems with math
  • Vertigo
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Seek medical help immediately if you or someone near you has sustained a blow to the head or a serious shaking of the head and is exhibiting any of these symptoms.

What Treatments are Currently Available for TBI?

The only existing recourse for patients with a moderate or severe TBI is rehabilitation. Physical and cognitive therapists help victims learn new ways to perform the activities of daily living (ADLs) after their brain injury makes those impossible to do as before. Some brain injury survivors will be able to live independently with regular outpatient visits; others may need to be in an assisted living facility for the rest of their lives.

The first step to recovery for any TBI victim is “acute rehabilitation.” This is an inpatient-only treatment in which a team of specialists helps patients with their ADLs, including eating, using the bathroom, talking, walking, dressing, brushing their teeth and other basic tasks. 

After they’ve healed enough to advance, patients may go into a post-acute transitional facility and endure at least six hours of therapy a day, with a focus on regaining as much independence as possible. Those who are not as advanced can opt for slower-paced sub-acute programs. 

Successful patients may graduate to being treated during the day and going home at night, then finally going home for good and only returning for regular outpatient rehabilitation.

TBI and Motor Vehicle Accidents

While falls are the leading cause of TBI overall, motor vehicle accidents, including those involving pedestrian accidents, bicycle accidents, and motorcycle accidents, are the leading cause of fatal traumatic brain injury.

Motor vehicle crashes due to careless drivers are among the most common and most easily preventable causes of traumatic brain injury in San Francisco, California, and throughout the United States. When a negligent driver’s actions cause you or a loved one a TBI, it’s you and your family who will suffer from the loss of cognitive function, loss of independence, loss of income, loss of mental and physical health, and perhaps even the loss of life. 

Traumatic brain injury can be devastating to the person suffering the injury and also to their entire family. For a brain injury lawyer, TBIs can be much more challenging to prove than other types of personal injury because the symptoms vary greatly and can often take weeks, months or years to reach maximum healing. Also, head injuries are usually not visible to the naked eye, and very specialized diagnostic tests are most often necessary to demonstrate a brain injury. 

If you or a family member has been injured in a car, bicycle, motorcycle or pedestrian accident and you suspect a traumatic brain injury (TBI), you need to consult an attorney experienced with the diagnosis, the medicine, the dynamics, and the treatment of TBI. At Choulos, Choulos & Wyle, we work with a team of neurologists, neuropsychologists, biomechanical engineers, vocational rehabilitation experts, physiatrists, economists, psychologists, and other experts who are necessary to diagnose and to prove the full nature and extent of our client’s traumatic brain injury, what treatment has been needed, what treatment will likely be needed in the future, and what the ultimate disability and loss of cognitive function and income are likely to be.   

The lawyers at Choulos, Choulos & Wyle represent those who have suffered traumatic brain injury through the wrongful conduct of others, including motor vehicle collisions, toxic torts, defective products, dangerous premises cases, slip and fall and pedestrian accidents. Please contact us through our website, or call one of our partners, Claude Wyle 415-432-7290 or George Choulos 415-432-7299 directly for your free legal consultation. Although our office is based in San Francisco, California, we happily offer Zoom meetings for all clients throughout California, and we are glad to help you to determine if you have a good case. 

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