17 October 2010

Brain-Injury Studies open to Youth, Adults


Medical studies that make the news usually involve large numbers of patients. But research can focus on rarer events, such as traumatic brain injuries.

Dr. Brenna McDonald, an assistant professor of radiology and Indianapolis neurologist at the Indiana University School of Medicine, is enrolling patients for two trials that delve into the aftermath of traumatic brain injuries.

One study focuses on children who have sustained a mild brain injury, such as a concussion. The other compares treatments for adults who had a traumatic brain injury of any severity.

People interested in participating in either trial can call (317) 274-6633.

Question: Please tell me about the study on children.

Answer: It targets children 8 to 15 years old who had a mild traumatic brain injury or concussion six to 12 months ago. What we're looking at are any residual or lasting problems that we can detect with structural brain imaging or cognitive tests.

We don't really know if there are meaningful or lasting results in this population. There has been a lot of worry about risk. We know for kids who are severely injured there are likely to be lasting consequences.

Q: Is much known about the effect of a brain injury?

A: Not for mild injury. We don't have a really good sense if there's a reason to be concerned about lasting effects. We don't know in younger kids what we should be worried about, if we should be worried at all, and how worried we should be.

For moderately to severely injured kids, a program of rehabilitation may be recommended that typically includes speech, physical and occupational therapy. Depending on the level of cognitive problems, we may make recommendations in terms of academic intervention. That can run the whole range of possible educational interventions.

Q: How many do you hope to enroll?

A: We're looking for between 15 and 30 kids over the next year or two. Participation in the study is about six hours, and it can be done over one or two days.

Q: What about the other study?

A: We're recruiting adults who have sustained a traumatic brain injury of any severity at least four months but no more than five years ago. The study includes medication treatment and therapeutic treatment. . . . The goal of all treatments is to try to improve memory or attention complaints.

It's a relatively brief time commitment of about seven weeks. This is designed by a colleague who designed the treatment program initially to address similar cognitive complaints after cancer chemotherapy. We have some preliminary data suggesting it can be effective for this.

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