Can a Mild Vacuum Help Limit Brain Damage After TBI?

Researchers may have found a treatment option which minimizes brain and tissue damage in the moments after a traumatic brain injury. According to an experimental study published in the August issue of Neurosurgery, the team of scientists say “mechanical tissue resuscitation” – consisting of applying vacuum pressure over the injured area of the brain – show promise as an effective TBI treatment.


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In the study, the researchers assessed the mechanical tissue resuscitation approach by inducing localized TBI in pigs then using a mild vacuum over the damaged area of the brain. The study tested the effectiveness of different levels of pressure, different application times, and different levels of delay after injury.

According to the findings, applying 100 mm Hg of pressure for three days led to a significantly smaller area of brain contusion and reduced bleeding compared to less or no pressure. Brain MRI scans also showed a more normal appearance in vacuum-treated animals.

All animals given suction for five days survived testing, while half of the animals only given suction for three days died, but the results stayed stable across all delays.

“The ability of mechanical tissue resuscitation to achieve meaningful reduction in loss of brain tissue and hemorrhage injury warrants further investigation,” the researchers conclude. It’s unclear exactly how mechanical tissue resuscitation might work to reduce the area of tissue damage after TBI—it may act by increasing blood flow to the injured tissue, thus promoting oxygenation, nutrient supply, and removal of waste products.

The study could have potentially huge implications for how brain injuries are treated in the future, but it is still in very early stages of testing and will likely not be put into human testing for a significant amount of time.

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