With more than five million Americans currently living with the effects of traumatic brain injury, and an estimated 1.5 million brain injuries occurring each year in the U.S., Emory Healthcare recognizes Brain Injury Awareness Month with advances to address the crippling effects of "the silent epidemic."
With a combination of world-class research and delivery of cutting-edge medical care, Emory is working to reduce the impact traumatic brain injury has on individuals, their families and society as a whole, according to Daniel Barrow, MD, chair of Emory University's Department of Neurosurgery.
"Traumatic brain injury is frequently referred to as a 'silent epidemic' because the resulting complications are not always visible, and because awareness about TBI is still very limited," says Dr. Barrow. "Every year more than 50,000 people die from brain injuries. For those who do survive, brain injury is incredibly life-altering for not only the individual, but also his or her family and friends. Our goal is crystal clear: from bench to bedside, we will fight this battle by researching ways in which we can minimize the impact of brain injuries, while we also improve the ways we treat those who look to us for care and rehabilitation."
Among some of Emory's recent highlights:
Emory University Hospital Unveils New Neuro Critical Care Unit
Just this month, Emory University Hospital unveiled its new Neuro Critical Care Unit. This hospital-based 21st Century model of care realizes Emory's vision for providing cutting-edge health care in a patient and family-centered environment. The unit centralizes 20 new, state-of-the art patient care rooms that allow for centralization of the most critical medical services for patients suffering from severe neurological trauma - including severe brain injury, strokes and aneurysms. It also provides an unparalleled level of comfort and convenience for family members who wish to remain near their loved ones.
Emory's new unit is one of the largest in the United States, and one of only a handful of such units in the Southeast. It is staffed by neurointensivists (neurologists specially trained in critical care) as well as a dedicated team of critical care nurse practitioners and pharmacists. This approach - offering around-the-clock monitoring and care management - has been shown to improve overall survival rates, as well as long-term recovery of function and quality of life.
"There is a large body of current research that links the quality of a health care facility's physical environment to both patient outcomes and staff efficiency," says Owen Samuels, MD, director of neurocritical care. "In a neurology ICU, where the average length of stay is 13 days - but is often many, many more, this can be especially beneficial. Evidence-based design can focus on a number of investigative items. These might include the effects of natural light, reduction of noise, increasing staff efficiencies, incorporation of new technologies, ways design can improve patient outcomes and more."
Emory University Hospital Earns Stroke Certification
In August, Emory University Hospital was awarded Primary Stroke Center Certification for its rapid response in diagnosing and treating stroke patients using a multi-specialty approach, and for its exceptional efforts to foster better outcomes for stroke care through the Joint Commission of Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).
"Certification is national recognition of our excellence in caring for patients with stroke," says Michael Frankel, MD, professor of neurology, Emory University School of Medicine, and co-director of the Emory MBNA Stroke Center. "Achieving excellence in stroke care at Emory University Hospital requires a highly coordinated and interdisciplinary effort involving many individuals from almost every department in the hospital. No single person can receive the credit. Everyone who cares for patients wit h stroke at our hospital should be congratulated on their efforts for continuously providing outstanding care."
Emory's multi-specialty approach in caring for stroke patients means treatment begins as soon as they arrive in the emergency room. "When someone comes in with signs of a stroke, we send out a page to our stroke team and all hands are immediately on deck," says Marilyn Margolis, RN, director of nursing for emergency services and neurosciences, Emory University Hospital. "Specialists in neurology, neurosurgery, interventional neuro-radiology, neurocritical care, pathology (for blood work analysis), emergency medicine, nursing and others convene to assess and treat the patient as soon as possible." Margolis says that just bringing the patient to a hospital that specifically treats stroke can begin the life-saving process.
Emory Researchers Find Progesterone is a Promising Treatment for Traumatic Brain Injury
Emory University researchers recently announced findings that show giving progesterone to trauma victims shortly following brain injury may reduce the risk of death and the degree of disability and also appears to be safe. The results of this study - the first clinical trial of its kind in the world – were published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. Researchers say the next step will be to confirm their findings in a much larger group of traumatic brain injury patients.
Emory's researchers designed a clinical trial to assess the promise of progesterone for treatment of TBI. Their three-year pilot study, called ProTECT (which stands for "Progesterone for Traumatic brain injury - Experimental Clinical Treatment"), enrolled 100 participants.
"We found encouraging evidence that progesterone is safe in the setting of TBI, with no evidence of side effects or serious harmful events," says David Wright, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Emory and lead author of the study.
"In addition, we found a 50 percent reduction in the rate of death in the progesterone-treated group. Furthermore, we found a significant improvement in the functional outcome and level of disability among patients who were enrolled with a moderate brain injury," he says.
Emory Opens Constraint Induced Therapy Clinic for Stroke Recovery Patients
Recently, Emory opened a new physical therapy clinic to provide rehabilitation to patients who have suffered from a stroke and have experienced weakness or immobility in a hand and/or arm.
The Constraint-Induced Therapy Program is designed to help patients recovering from a stroke to improve the use of an arm and/or hand by restraining the less-impaired hand and/or arm with an immobilizing mitt during waking hours in an effort to encourage use of the weaker arm. Patients then engage in daily rehabilitative therapy sessions, which include intensive training in functional tasks such as opening a lock, turning a door knob or pouring a drink.
"The basic principal behind constraint-induced therapy is re-teaching a patient to regain use of his or her impaired limb by limiting their use of the good one," says Steven L. Wolf, PhD, professor of rehabilitation medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and the study's principal investigator. "Often, stroke rehabilitation has primarily focused on teaching patients how to better rely on their stronger limbs, even if they retain some use in the impaired limbs--creating a learned disuse."