Electric stimulation in brain trauma

Electric stimulation in brain trauma

Brain injury with herniation of the brain

Researchers find that by using electric stimulation in brain trauma patients you might improve their condition.

Several forms of damage to the brain caused from either strokes or physical accidents can cause people to drift into a form of minimal consciousness. Usually there is not a lot doctors can do to treat this state and in many cases it leaves the patient unable to communicate.

Electric stimulation in brain trauma patients yields promising Results

In a study conducted at the Liège University Hospital Center in Belgium researchers investigated if they could improve the patient’s grade of consciousness. The researchers tried using electric stimulation in brain trauma patients with a simple form of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). tDCS is using a weak electric current via electrodes glued to the  scalp to affect how the underlying brain tissue work.

The study included 55 brain-damaged patients, 30 with a minimally conscious state and 25 with other forms of consciousness disturbances including patients in a vegetative state. The study was double blinded with a sham type of control to assess if the effect was real. The patient was assessed before and after using a 23 grade scale where a higher number means you were more aware.

13 out of the 30 patients (43%) with minimal consciousness showed some improvement after the electrical stimulation while only 2 of the 25 in the control group showed any change at all. Researchers saw no long-lasting effects of the tDCS over the 12 month follow-up period.

The changes in the patients were transient and moderate but in some cases the patients recovered the ability to communicate, which could be game changing.

This is promising results but doesn’t really say a lot about electrical stimulation as a treatment option since the effect only worked on 43% of patients, and the effect itself was moderate. But since causes of the brain traumas varied so much in the patients it’s also hard to get a group of patients that are similar enough to really study how effective the treatment is.

This does offer an interesting approach for further research. Restoring the ability to communicate to theses patients would be invaluable to their families.

Cover image: Dwayne Reed via wikimedia by CC-BY-SA-3.0

Content image: via an article by CC BY 2.0