Treatment for brain injuries comes under scrutiny

Anyone who has suffered a brain injury, or who knows someone in Florida who has, should be interested in the latest research being conducted by the Institute of Medicine. According to a recent feature by the New York Times, the institute is studying the way medical professionals treat psychological lapses from traumatic brain injuries.

This study is especially important today. In addition to people in car accidents, these brain injuries are often suffered by soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The institute so far has found that the techniques used to treat such brain injuries appear to be helpful, but lack the rigorous scientific support necessary to determine just how helpful they are. According to the institute’s report, the evidence supporting therapies such as daily diaries designed to boost memory was just too uncertain to support any guidelines regarding which therapies medical professionals should provide to which patients.

The institute’s study comes amid a period, since 2009, during which the Pentagon has provided more than 71,000 hours of cognitive rehabilitation to soldiers who have suffered brain injuries, the New York Times reports. These rehabilitation methods have been criticized by family members of those Armed Forces veterans who have suffered traumatic brain injuries.

Cognitive rehabilitation techniques focus on improving the memory, attention and decision-making abilities of people who have suffered a brain injury. The therapy won’t hurt patients, the Times reports. But the big question concerns how much of a positive impact the therapy has. The Times story, and the Institute’s report, doesn’t answer this. But they do ask the right questions. We owe it to those people who have suffered brain injuries to continue to evaluate and study the methods we use to treat them.

Source: The New York Times, “Treatment of Trauma to Brain Is Studied,” Benedict Carey, Oct. 11, 2011