When an Oregon accident victim, whether they are in a car, riding a bicycle or simply crossing the street, gets injured, it’s normally a relatively straightforward process to assess what kind of injuries that person has suffered, and what the long-term effects will be. Broken ribs, legs and arms can be clearly diagnosed with X-rays and will heal for the most part. Spinal injuries can assessed with MRI scans, as can whiplash and other soft tissue injuries.
Up till now, however, when a traumatic brain injury compensation lawyer represents a client, it has been far more difficult to give precise details of the damage his client has suffered. In many tragic cases, only time can tell, and time is one thing accident victims often cannot afford.
Those months and even years of waiting for brain damage caused by a traumatic injury to be fully assessed may soon be a thing of the past, thanks to a new kind of test can find brain injuries that were previously undetectable. Research is only beginning to bear fruit for a new kind of MRI-type test that can actually pinpoint brain injuries deep inside the head and more importantly, give doctors an opportunity to develop an effective program of rehabilitation.
As things stand in today’s medical world, in many cases, it’s simply not possible to see precisely where a blow to the head has caused damage or the extent of that damage. This makes the job of a traumatic brain injury compensation lawyer that much more difficult, because courts generally require a large degree of certifiable proof when determining award amounts in personal injury cases.
Now, at long last, help may be at hand. “We now have, for the first time, the ability to make visible these previously invisible wounds,” said Walter Schneider, of the University of Pittsburgh and one of the people leading the development of the experimental scan. “If you cannot see or quantify the damage, it is hard to treat it.”
Traumatic Brain Injury Victims are More Common Than You Think
More than 1.5 million Americans suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) each and every year, including up to 200,000 soldiers serving in Afghanistan, and previously Iraq. Most TBIs are concussions or milder-type injuries that can heal on their own, but then there are the people who suffer sudden and severe mood swings, memory loss or other problems.
These people are frequently sent for CT scans which will often come back negative; the injured people are told nothing can be found, and this leads to frustrations for both victims and their doctors. Even when there’s a serious head injury, a CT scan can only see bleeding or swelling but not if the brain’s internal connections (its wiring) is broken in such a way that it cannot repair itself.
Another member of the University of Pittsburgh research team, Dr. David Okonkwo, says this is a dangerous predicament. “You can have a patient with severe (brain) swelling who goes on to have a normal recover, and other patients with severe swelling who go on to die.” Dr. Okonkwo says current testing simply cannot tell physicians what the likely consequence of a TBI will be.
New Technology Allows High-Definition Fiber Tracking to Pinpoint Damages
The University of Pittsburgh’s research team has now published a report describing a possible solution that will help a doctor treat someone with a TBI, and a traumatic brain injury compensation lawyer to more accurately represent the damage his client has suffered. It’s called high definition fiber tracking, which is done by processing high-powered MRIs through a special computer program.
The research team explained that brain cells communicate with each other through a system of nerve fibers called axons, which work together like a telephone network. These fibers run along fiber tracts, which act like cable highways with millions upon millions of connections. The new computer program will process the information from the MRIs to display images on screen whereby the major fiber tracts are displayed in bright greens, yellows or purples, depending on their different functions. Researchers say they can now more accurately identify breaks in fiber tracts that can slow or stop nerve connections from doing the job they’re meant to be doing.
Physicians outside the research group are excited about the new techniques. Dr. Rocco Armonda, of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, said the new tool gives a far superior look at brain nerve fibers than anything that has gone before. “It’s like comparing your old fuzzy black and white with a new high-definition TV,” he said. Dr. Armonda plans to start using the new high definition fiber tracking program at Walter Reed, but he knows it could take years to fully assess the accuracy and accruing benefits of the new system.
Successful Testing Makes Everyone Optimistic
One of the first 50 TBI patients to be tested using the new methods was Daniel Stunkard, a 32-year-old New Castle, PA, native who spent three weeks in a coma after his ATV crashed in 2010. His CT scans and standard MRIs showed only bruising and swelling, but when Stunkard woke up, he couldn’t move his left leg, arm or hand. The Pittsburgh research team used their high definition fiber tracking, which found partial breaks in the nerve fibers that control the leg and arm, along with extensive damage to those controlling the hand. This allowed doctors to develop an effective rehabilitation program, and six months later, Stunkard was walking. He also has arm motion but still can’t use his hand.
Dr. Okonkwo said the nerve fibers controlling hand action were too far gone for repair. Even so, Stunkard is grateful that doctors knew from the beginning what he was facing into, which in turn helped him prepare for the future. “They pretty much knew right off the bat that I was going to have problems, but I’m glad they did tell me,” Stunkard said. It’s exactly the kind of information that a traumatic brain injury compensation lawyer could use, too, to help quantify as early as possible the kind of treatment an accident victim will need, the cost of that treatment, and the likely long term effects (such as the damage to Stunkard’s hand) that simply can’t be determined using current evaluation methods.
Other research is in the pipeline, too, including simple blood tests to determine whether a substance the brain leaks into the bloodstream after a TBI can give doctors an early indication of the extent of the damage that’s been done. For someone who has suffered a TBI, any additional information will help, particularly if that information helps doctors formulate an effective treatment program.
In Oregon, TBIs are a sad fact of life for many accident victims each year. The effects can be devastating; hopefully, this new research can go some way towards making victim’s lives that bit easier. However, if you or someone close to you has received a TBI through someone else’s negligence, it’s vitally important that you contact a competent and experienced traumatic brain injury compensation lawyer as soon as possible. Lawsuits for this type of injury are extremely complex, and a good personal injury attorney will be able to help you and your family through the entire process.