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New technology helps treat brain injuries

November 11, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
New technology is helping doctors change the way they treat brain injuries. Sam Farr can almost roll over and get up with the help of his physical therapist. But doctors say the 22-year-old Marine has come a long way since a horrible car crash paralyzed him 10 months ago.

Farr's friend was driving when they crashed.

"He turned off a hundred foot embankment and we hit a tree at 60 miles per hour," said Farr.

Despite his paralysis, Farr refused to believe he had a traumatic brain injury.

"We have a hard time believing that we do have one," said Farr. "It took me a long time to realize that I had a brain injury."

A new Boston University MRI study reveals you can see evidence of subtle brain damage following a concussion.

Physiatrist David Patterson with the Casa Colina Centers for Rehab says many people with mild head injuries are often overlooked.

"People may not know that those are symptoms of a traumatic brain injury," said Dr. Patterson. "And I think there's also a misnomer of a concussion not being a traumatic brain injury."

Doctors say having a real physical marker, something that you can see on an MRI, will encourage more patients to seek treatment and hopefully lead to earlier intervention.

The same MRI brain research found doctors could detect early signs of post-traumatic stress syndrome.

"The study shows that early intervention of PTSD and early intervention in traumatic brain injury is paramount to prognosis," said Dr. Patterson.

Dr. Patterson says that Iran and Afghanistan are the first conflicts in which brain scans are mandatory following a bomb blast.

"Every time there's war what comes out of the military, as far as research, does actually get translated to the private sector," said Dr. Patterson.

Experts says this kind of research will do a lot to help all of us at home, including patients like Farr.

The research has implications far beyond veterans and the military. In fact, 25 million Americans will develop PTSD at some point in their lives. Anyone can develop it after a terrifying experience or traumatic event.


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