Scientists have known of the phenomenon of brain tsunamis, which occur after a traumatic brain injury, for decades. Now, a new study published in The Lancet Neurology found that treating or stopping brain tsunamis, otherwise known as killer waves, can prevent additional damage after a traumatic brain injury.
“Brain tsunamis” is a colloquial term for cortical spreading depolarizations. The brain’s nerve cells, much like a battery, store energy, both electrical and chemical. After a traumatic brain injury, these nerve cells often “short circuit,” malfunctioning and failing to do their job. But all these cells are connected, and a depolarization (malfunction) in one can affect the surrounding cells, causing further depolarizations. This then repeatedly spreads to surrounding cells in a wave moving outward from the point of original trauma.
The study found that after a traumatic brain injury, over half of patients experienced brain tsunamis. Importantly, victims who experienced brain tsunamis had worse outcomes than those who did not, and the relationship appears to be causal: the brain tsunamis are causing the subsequent brain injury.
The study was a collaboration between the King’s College Hospital and the King’s College London (each a part of the King’s Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Center), the UC Neuroscience Institute, and the Department of Neurosurgery of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. It was largely funded by a grant from the Department of Defense’s Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (PH/TBI) Research Program (formerly known as the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder/TBI Research Program).
Unfortunately, the study did not offer a means of blocking or minimizing brain tsunamis after a traumatic brain injury. But the results provide an excellent avenue of research for investigating means of mitigating some of the worst damage from these injuries.
Our top brain injury attorneys are encouraged by this step forward in our understanding of traumatic brain injury. Scientists’ understanding of the mechanism by which injury occurs has been effectively stalled for decades, and we hope that this new information will lead to better treatments, and better outcomes, for brain injury patients.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago brain injury lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.