What happens when a patient is admitted to a trauma center with a traumatic brain injury (TBI)? Clinicians will first classify the injury as mild, moderate or severe, by assessing the patient’s consciousness levels.
The differences in TBIs will vary greatly from the initial trauma and assessment to the resulting effects in the years that follow. The use of broad classifications for these injuries can be detrimental by limiting the predictability of the patient’s outcomes, both long-term and short-term.
“Every traumatic brain injury is unique,” said Vignesh Subbian, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, or BME, and the Department of Systems and Industrial Engineering, or SIE, and a member of the BIO5 Institute at the University of Arizona. “Let’s say two people fall down the stairs the same way and get hit in the exact same place. They’re still going to have different traumatic brain injuries. We can’t change what happened – the primary injury – but there is room to prevent further damage to the brain.”
The National Science Foundation, or NSF, provided a new grant of just over $500,000 to aid in the effective treatment of TBI’s, by better characterization to predict their outcomes. Dr. Subbian is a principal investigator in the program together with a team of key researchers and clinicians from other institutions, including Emory University, the University of Cincinnati and Virginia Tech, with overall NSF support of nearly $1.2 million.
“This NSF award exemplifies a successful collaboration among systems and industrial engineering, biomedical engineering, computer science and health sciences to work on a complex, interdisciplinary, problem that has a high impact on our society,” said Young-Jun Son, department head of SIE. “I am very proud of Dr. Subbian for leading this exciting project.”
“TBI’s pose a significant public health burden, often resulting in long-term disability and poor quality of life,” said Subbian, whose TBI research experience spans nearly eight years.
Garnering TBI Data from Advanced Monitoring
By delving into large clinical datasets and gathering data from advanced monitoring of brain injury patients, better classification methods will be developed by researchers to predict future levels of recovery.
“This will allow clinicians to provide the right care to the right TBI patient at the right time,” Subbian said.
At present there is an uncertainty regarding the extent of patient’s recovery, once they have left the intensive care unit. With tools developed through this program, family members and other caregivers could have reasonably accurate expectations as to what to expect. It would also help clinical researchers in the selection of patients for clinical trials, which have a 100% failure rate over the past three decades.
“In the future we might be able to identify patients best suited for specific TBI clinical trials,” Subbian said. “Not accounting for the wide variation in TBI cases is one of the reasons all clinical trials failed in the past.”
Traumatic brain injury is an area in desperate need of predictive tools and further research. TBI is the leading cause of death for individuals under the age of 44, with an average of 1.7 million occurring nationwide every year.
Although the initial focus of the program will be TBIs, the future methods developed by researchers will apply to a variety of critical illnesses such as cardiovascular disease.
“This project is a stepping stone,” Subbian said. “We’re going to use this project to generate a wide range of prototypical tools, and then we’re really going to push generalizability.
The funding for this project comes from the Smart and Connected Health Program, a partnership of many federal agencies, including the NSF and the National Institutes of Health. Their mission is to integrate methods from different disciplines, including computing and information sciences and engineering. Subbian who serves as a connection between the computational and systems engineering methods and biomedical problems, is the university’s first joint appointee between the BME and SIE departments.
If You or a Loved One Have Sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury
Contact an experienced brain injury lawyer today. Between medical bills, lost income over a lifetime, rehabilitation, occupational therapy, special needs and more, the cost of a TBI can be astronomical. You may be able to recover the money you need to live for the rest of your life. Do not settle your case without contacting a personal injury attorney at Vititoe Law Group today. Call 818-991-8900 today or contact us online for a free evaluation of you case. You pay nothing until we win.