- Doctors can often save the life of a victim of severe traumatic brain injury if they reach the patient soon enough—but are far less able to preserve the person’s mental abilities.
- The best hope for improved healing lies neither in new medications, which have been disappointing so far, nor in exotic fixes involving stem cells and neural regeneration, which are at least a decade away.
- The biggest gains in cognitive recovery will likely result from advances in emergency room and intensive care practices such as slowing the brain’s metabolism by cooling the body, removing part of the skull to relieve intracranial pressure and injecting an experimental polymer “glue” to repair damaged brain cells.
Kirsten Timmons was navigating a frozen overpass one night when a passing car skidded out of control and slammed into her vehicle. As her car came to a stop, Timmons’s head probably snapped around its own axis, decelerating sharply when it struck the seat-belt holder next to her.
The impact produced a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), knocking Timmons out and setting the stage for lasting brain damage. Luckily for her, emergency services rushed her to the hospital within an hour of the crash, greatly boosting her chances of survival. Prompt medical attention can, for example, prevent dangerous pressure buildup in the brain, remove perilous blood clots and thwart other life-threatening consequences of severe TBI.