Medical Minute: Protecting the Brain

5.3 million people in the United States live with a disability from a head injury, and no current treatment could have prevented the damages.

Drugs and surgery are sometimes used to relieve pressure inside the skull, but they don't always work. Now, doctors are studying, so those patients can lead more normal lives.

One clear day in October 1996, Sandy Teepen and her husband tom were walking to the movies, but they never made it to the theater. Sandy is lucky. After a year and a half of rehabilitation, she is getting her life back. Dr. David Wright says it's not always this way.

"Traumatic brain injury causes a lot of death, a lot of morbidity, a lot of mortality in this country, and there's no treatment for it," says dr. Wright.

Dr. Wright is hoping to change that with the hormone progesterone.

"What this drug does is it targets that secondary pathway. By targeting those, we now have a drug, potentially, that could halt the process of cell death."

Progesterone seems to control inflammation that can lead to dangerous brain swelling. It also appears to slow or block the release of damaging chemicals in the brain.

"We haven't seen any deleterious effects of it, and what we're seeing in the patients looks promising."

Sandy is now back to doing hobbies that were a struggle after the accident.

For more information, contact:

David Wright, M.D.
Emory University

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