New Study Uses Hormone Therapy as Brain Injury Treatment

Oregon traffic accidents, whether they involve cars, trucks, motorcycles or bicyclists, can and do cause an almost unlimited variety of injuries. People suffer broken bones, whiplash, soft tissue injuries, disfiguring scars…the list is endless, but perhaps no accident is as cruel and life-changing as one involving a traumatic injury to the brain.

Up till now, the recovery of anyone suffering such an injury was something akin to buying a lottery ticket; the odds weren’t great. Now, however, a new study that involves treating a traumatic brain injury with hormones immediately after the accident is giving some cause for optimism.

Study Test the Theory that Progesterone can Lessen Effects of a TBI.

The study is being financed by the National Institute of Health and being closely monitored and managed by Emory University in Atlanta. The main aim of the research is to test the theory that progesterone can greatly lessen the effects of a traumatic brain injury.

Researchers believe that an infusion of the hormone must be administered very quickly if it is to reduce the mortality and disability generally associated with traumatic brain injuries. Any patient involved in the study would have to have the progesterone administered within a very limited time frame after the accident. The methods include:

  • An initial infusion of the reproductive hormone progesterone within no more than four hours of the accident causing the brain injury
  • The infusions continuing for three consecutive days after the accident
  • An assessment of the overall results after six months

Study’s Initial Findings are Good

Doctors are both enthusiastic and hopeful about the results they’ve seen so far. They point to the fact that up till now, not a single medication has been approved for the treatment and prevention of the worst outcomes of traumatic brain injury.

The data from this new study, however, is generating more than a little optimism. “The early data looks very promising,” said Dr. David Gordon, an assistant professor of neurosurgery at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. Dr. Gordon is not a member of the research team, but he has seen some results in people who have been treated under the study and admits to having “some measure of … optimism” about the progesterone treatment.

One of the people who may be among the first to benefit from the pioneering treatment is 18-year-old California native Michelle Vaquero. She was hit by a car while crossing a street last December and was thrown more than 30 feet. When she got to the hospital, doctors immediately diagnosed traumatic brain injury and gave Vaquero’s mother, Miriam Richards, little cause to think her daughter would recover. “The impact was so severe that they didn’t give us any hope. They didn’t tell us she’d be fine,” Richards said.

Doctors told Richards about the new study, and she gave her approval immediately. Since undergoing the three-day progesterone treatment, Vaquero has shown consistent signs of recovery. Richards now believes the improvement will continue. Incredibly, where once there was no reason for hope, Vaquero has already relearned how to walk and hopes to resume her studies at San Jose City College in the autumn.

The study was originally launched in 2007. At the time, the mortality rates for people who had received traumatic brain injuries were quite high, but the hormone treatment gave encouraging results from the beginning. Initial results showed:

  • Within 30 days of receiving a traumatic brain injury, 30 percent of patients who had not received the hormone treatment had died.
  • The mortality rate among those that had been given the hormone treatment was just 13 percent, or less than half the rate that would have been expected had the treatment not been administered.
  • Patients with moderately traumatic brain injury who received the progesterone infusions experienced far greater functional improvement than patients who did not receive the hormone treatment.

A separate study being conducted in China gave similar positive findings for patients receiving the hormone treatment.

TBI’s are Gaining More Recognition, Understanding

The seemingly sudden interest in finding an effective treatment for traumatic brain injuries may be spurred on by the fact that the injury is currently gaining a huge amount of public attention. Besides the increasing number of troops arriving home with traumatic brain injuries from places like Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 1,500 ex-NFL players are suing the league for the long-term damage they are experiencing as a direct result of multiple concussions.

The number of people now being treated for traumatic brain injuries is reaching almost epidemic proportions, and something clearly needs to be done to improve the prognoses of those affected. Current statistics show that:

  • As many as 1.7 million Americans a year experience a traumatic brain injury.
  • Of that total, 275,000 or about one in six are hospitalized.
  • Up to 50,000 people per year (one in 30, as confirmed by the study) die from these injuries.
  • More than 5 million Americans currently suffer a long-term disability related to traumatic brain injuries, and the cost in terms of direct medical expenses and lost productivity and other indirect costs are estimated at a shocking $76 billion per year.

Yet up until now, drug companies showed little or no interest in either funding or conducting research into medical treatments for traumatic brain injuries. The reasons for their reticence seem based on a combination of centuries old theories and misconceptions, including:

  • The belief that it is impossible for the brain to regenerate damaged cells
  • The theory that progesterone is a hormone involved exclusively in the female’s menstruation cycle, embryogenesis, fertility and pregnancy.

Dr. David Wright, who is currently the lead investigator in the clinical trial, explains that these theories are quite simply wrong and that nature has given the scientific world ample clues that progesterone has multiple roles in both the female and male bodies. Dr. Wright said small amounts of progesterone are known to be present in the brains of both men and women, and he believes this indicates the hormone has neuroprotective functions, as well as reproductive.

How can Progesterone help treat a Brain Injury?

It is Dr. Wright’s assertion, supported by an ever-increasing compilation of data from the study, that progesterone is involved in a number of physiological functions immediately following an acute brain injury. Research suggests that progesterone:

  • Reduces the cerebral swelling that kills millions of brain cells after a traumatic brain injury
  • Blunts damages to the cells caused by free radicals
  • Promotes myelin production, which is believed to be a healing and protective enzyme the body produces to protect damaged nerve cells

With such promising results, it’s quite possible the current trial will be halted. A safety monitoring board must first examine the results to date and look closely for any negative side effects of the hormone treatment. If, however, they find that progesterone treatment is highly effective, they could cancel the remaining three years of the study and fast-track the treatment into general practice. In an almost unprecedented move, the FDA has promised to push through approval of the progesterone formulation if the safety board delivers a promising report.

In Oregon, traumatic brain injury victims—those that survive—are generally left facing a life very different than the one they knew before the accident. This new research gives great hope that sufferers may now have some chance of regaining some aspects of their life that were so cruelly snatched away.

Problems will remain, of course, both physical and financial, so if a member of your family has suffered a traumatic brain injury in an accident that wasn’t their fault, you’ll still have to find a way to deal with the enormous medical bills, the lost income, the ongoing physical therapy and the emotional stress for the whole family. And that just doesn’t seem fair, does it?

Perhaps the best thing you can do for the accident victim and for the rest of the affected family is to contact an outstanding Portland personal injury attorney with experience in traumatic brain injury cases. They will listen sympathetically to your story and explain all your options. The consultation is completely free, and if you decide to go ahead with your claim, the personal injury lawyer will handle all the investigations and negotiations, so you and your family can get on with the process of recovery.