Statin Drug use before TBI Improves Survival and Outcome

In the October 2011 issue of the journal Trauma epidemiologist Eric B. Schneider, Ph.D., of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine reported that older patients who happened to have been taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs when admitted to the hospital with serious head injuries were 76% more likely to survive than those not taking the drugs, according to results of a Johns Hopkins study. Those taking statins also had a 13%greater likelihood of achieving good, functional recovery after one year.

Dr. Schneider suspects these effects are due to the anti-inflammatory properties of statin drugs which would prevent masses of white cells from moving into areas of traumatized brain tissue and killing them. He plans to do a clinical trial that would involve giving statins to in the ICU to seriously brain injured patients who had not previously taken statins.

Can A New Blood Test Diagnose TBI In The Field?

A study published by Dr. Linda Papa of Orlando, Florida, on November 10, 2011 in the Annals of Emergency Medicine found that patients with TBI had a significantly higher amount of an acidic protein in their blood than those without TBI. The protein at issue is called glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP). Dr. Papa said the test, which must be done within four hours after the injury, may be used someday in the field to diagnose TBI in wounded soldiers. She also said the test could help determine which patients with head trauma need or don’t need a head CT scan at a hospital.

Writing Poetry to Improve Cognitive, Languistic and Emotional Functioning

Librarian Angela Hunt of Carver, MN tripped and struck her face on the sidewalk en route to work causing a TBI with loss of consciousness for about 20 minutes. When she attempted to return to work she had difficulty speaking, was unable to use a computer and no longer recognized long term library patrons. Hunt helped rehab herself by writing poetry. She found that the physical act of writing helped her brain make connections with language. Writing poetry helped her recover language skills and vocabulary.

It was also an outlet for expression and integral to regaining her emotional equilibrium. Hunt has published a book for TBI survivors titled “Am I Still Me? A Group of Words with Fundamental Questions for Those Struggling to Recover Themselves.”

What is a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury?

Although there is no one definition of mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) agreed upon by all physicians, here is a good one from Neil N. Jasey, M.D., director of brain injury rehabilitation at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange, New Jersey:
“A brain injury occurs when a blow or jolt to the head or body disrupts normal brain function, typically causing a change in mental status or consciousness. While radiographic evidence of a brain injury may not be apparent, long-lasting cognitive and behavioral effects can result.” Dr. Jasey cautions that: “Unlike physical injuries, such as a sprain or broken bone, the signs of a [mild] brain injury may not present themselves immediately. Initial symptoms may include confusion, disorientation, headache, nausea and extreme fatigue.

Over time, other symptoms, including irritability, difficulty with memory or concentration, and even depression, may appear along with impaired judgment, behavioral issues and personality changes.” Remember that MTBI is substantially equivalent to a concussion, that it does not require coma or any complete loss of consciousness (however brief), and that it can be caused by whiplash alone with blunt head trauma.

Odd Ambien Side Effects

The medication Ambien (Zolpidem) is a non-benzodiazepam agent for relieving anxiety and helping people with insomnia get to sleep. It is often prescribed for people with TBI who suffer from insomnia. Jui-Hsiu Tsaia, a  psychiatrist at Kaohsiung Municipal Hsiao-Kang Hospital in Taiwan, and his colleagues, heard that Ambien can cause sleep-walking and amnesia during sleep-related behaviors. They assembled a group of approximately 250 Taiwanese patients and found that 5% of them showed this odd side effect when taking Ambien for insomnia. If your loved one shows these behaviors on Ambien let his or her doctor know so an informed decision can be made as to whether to continue or discontinue the medication.