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Hennepin County Medical Center Tackles Traumatic Brain Injury Research

Researchers at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), in Minneapolis, are trying to solve some of the mysteries surrounding traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).

Current technology often does not provide a complete understanding of the nature or severity of these injuries. Issues identifying TBIs can lead to inadequate treatment and long-term health problems. By improving the way TBIs are identified, HCMC hopes to improve medical care and quality of life for patients.

As  a level I trauma center, HCMC treats the most TBIs in Minnesota. The hospital also operates the Brain Injury Research Lab, where researchers are conducting this innovative work. Recent research at the lab includes development of new evaluation tools for eye tracking, blood-based biomarkers, and brain oxygenation after injury. These tools have the potential to measure acute and chronic neurological trauma more precisely and ultimately to improve future treatment of TBIs.

Eye tracking, for example, enables cameras to measure eye motion while a patient looks at a screen and search for patterns associated with concussions. A 2017 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that eye tracking reliably tracked concussions in 56 pediatric patients.

Biomarker technology indicates which types of cells might be damaged from a TBI, allowing for a more nuanced diagnosis and understanding of the injury. A clinical trial at the lab integrates blood-based biomarkers with eye tracking, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging scans, and standardized outcome scans to improve brain injury assessment and treatment.

Uzma Samadani, MD, HCMC’s chair of TBI research, said the lab’s mission is to “improve brain health in our own community while creating innovative, sustainable solutions that can be scaled to serve larger communities throughout the world.”

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About the Author

Katherine Susman is a research associate at America's Essential Hospitals.