Help For People With Traumatic Brain Injuries New Study Finds Optimal Treatment Methods

Ryser-Rehab
Dr. David Ryser, center, was a site director for a new research study on the best care for patients with traumatic brain injury.

The Neuro Specialty Rehabilitation Unit at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray was one of 10 leading rehabilitation centers from across the United States and Canada to participate in the study.

Overall, we wanted to take a detailed look at how we care for each patient and figure out what works best,” said David Ryser, MD, medical director for the Intermountain Medical Center Neuro Specialty Rehabilitation Unit, and one of the site directors for the study. “This is the richest collection of data about traumatic brain injury rehabilitation ever assembled, allowing clinicians to have evidence to guide the care they provide.”

Researchers examined the care and recovery of more than 2,000 patients with traumatic brain injuries and then analyzed the data to find the most successful care methods. 

Here’s a look at three key findings from the study that may help if you have a loved one with a brain injury:

  1. The sooner the rehabilitation begins the better. “One of the strongest predictors of better outcomes for patients across all levels of severity was a shorter time between the day of injury and admission to a rehabilitation unit,” Dr. Ryser said. So starting therapy even while the patient is still in the ICU and then moving them to a rehabilitation unit as soon as possible can make a big difference.
  2. It’s not the duration of therapy that counts, it’s the type of activity you’re doing. More aggressive therapies done for short lengths of time may have a greater impact than less aggressive therapies performed over a longer length of time. For example, the study indicates that patients up trying to walk as part of their therapy improve faster than patients doing less demanding therapies on a mat.
  3. Feeding tubes make a difference. It should be no surprise that making sure the body gets all the nutrients it needs aids in the recovery process. Feeding tubes can be uncomfortable and not much fun, especially for patients with brain injuries, but the research indicates it is often worth the discomfort. The study compared patients who received tube feeds with similar patients who did not and found that those with feeding tubes had much better outcomes.

“There are many more specifics that should be nailed down through further study, but it’s clear that traumatic brain injury patients need to start therapy as soon as possible, the quantity of the therapy doesn’t matter as much as the quality and they need to get adequate nutrition throughout the rehabilitation process,” Dr. Ryser said. “Intermountain Medical Center performed among the best in all three areas.”

The full study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, and the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, is available at the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine website.