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Fish Oil Helps Patients Recover From Traumatic Brain Injuries

In past posts we have mentioned that about 1.7 million people suffer traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in the United States each year. Of those, about 40 percent are caused by motor vehicle accidents.

According to cnn.com, such was the case of Bobby Ghassemi, a 17 year old that suffered a devastating brain injury in a car accident in March, 2010. Bobby was alleged to have been driving too fast when he lost control of his car and barreled off the road. By the time the paramedics got to the scene of the accident, Bobby had a Glasgow Coma Score of 3. Just to give his parents an idea of what this meant when explaining to them his condition at the time of the accident, Dr. Michael Lewis, a physician advising the family, told them that a brick has Glasgow Coma Score (GSC) of 3. In other words, Bobby was barely alive. His doctor at the time told his father, Peter Ghassemi, that it was a miracle that his son was alive and that if he came out of the coma he had slipped into, he could be non-responsive.

Bobby’s brain had become so swollen (which is typical in this cases) that the doctors had to reduce the pressure on his brain by cutting of his skull. Bobby also suffered a diffuse axonal injury, a very serious injury to the nerves surrounding the brain.

Ten days after the crash Bobby’s condition had somewhat stabilized, but all the doctors could do was to wait and see whether he would recover. As we have discussed in other posts, the cells at the point of impact in traumatic brain injury cases often die. These dead cells release chemical substances that make the brain swell and as the brain swells within the confines of the skull, the veins and arteries that bring oxygen to the brain are constricted, stopping the vital flow of oxygen and causing more cells to die. If allowed to continue, this deadly vicious circle will eventually kill the patient.

Currently there is no medication to help the brain recover from these early symptoms. All doctors can do is what they had done so far for Bobby: take out a portion of the skull to relieve the pressure on the swollen brain. Scientists are testing other procedures, which include: the use of a micro-computer vacuum pump to extract these deadly fluids (see our post dated 04/18/2012) and RNA Interference, which consists in injecting a medication into a peripheral vein, which helps manipulate the blood vessels to keep the tight junction channels between them open long enough for the fluids (mostly water) causing the swelling to drain back into the blood (see our post dated 05/22/2012). Yet, the preceding are experimental procedures that are not yet approved.

Fish Oil To The Rescue

Desperate to help his son recover, Peter Ghassemi was willing to try anything. After talking to some friends, he was told to contact Dr. Lewis, a Colonel and army doctor with vast experience treating traumatic brain injuries in soldiers. Dr. Lewis’ recommendation: fish oil. Although practically unheard of as a treatment, fish oil is composed of omega-3 essential fatty acids, which compose about 30% of the brain as well. It is Dr. Lewis’ theory,that a massive dose of this natural building block could help expedite the brain’s recovery. The treatment with massive amounts of fish oil (combined with sessions in a hyperbaric chamber) had helped another patient in the past: Randal McCloy, the sole survivor of a mine disaster in West Virginia who had suffered extensive brain damage due to prolonged exposure to methane and carbon monoxide. Less than three weeks after the mine accident, McCloy emerged from his coma and three months after that he was walking and speaking.

Peter Ghassemi was quickly convinced that this was the right treatment for his son. Yet, he had to fight his son’s physicians so that they would consent to submit Bobby to the fish oil procedure. Finally, they agreed and started Bobby on a dose similar to the 20 grams (2 grams being the typical supplemental dose for someone with brain injury) a day of omega-3 through a feeding tube previously given to McCloy. Much like in McCloy’s case, the doctors hoped the fish oil would help repair the myelin, the protective sheath surrounding the nerve cells, which also helps the cells to communicate with one another.

The results were the same as in the McCloy’s case; Bobby started emerging from his coma two weeks after starting the fish oil regimen and after the fifth or six week he started moving his extremities and showing signs of recognizing his family and discerning things like colors and numbers. Three months after his accident, Bobby was well enough to attend his high school graduation.

More Studies Needed

Despite these successes, scientists say that more studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of the fish oil treatment. For example, in McCloy’s case the doctors combined the fish oil with sessions on a hyperbaric chamber making it impossible to tell which treatment proved more effective or if it was a combination of both that brought about the results. In Bobby’s case, on the other hand, doctors point to his youth as a factor that may have greatly influenced his recovery. Be that as it may, these treatments are very expensive and when it comes to victims of accidents suffered by other’s negligent actions, a lawyer experienced in the handling of this kind of cases might be the only way for victims to recover the funds they need for treatment and rehabilitation.

The Lawyers of Greenberg Stone and Urbano Can Help

With more than 70 years of combined experience, the lawyers of Greenberg Stone and Urbano are ready to help victims that have suffered any kind of traumatic brain injury as a result of an accident recover the funds they need for their rehabilitation. If you or a loved one have suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of a car accident, a truck accident, an accident at an amusement park or as a result of any other kind of accident, you should immediately contact a law firm experienced in handling these cases. As stated before, a lawyer can help you seek financial compensation from those whose negligence caused your injuries as well as from their insurers. This financial compensation may include past and future medical expenses (including rehabilitation therapy), lost wages and pain and suffering.

Throughout the years, the Miami Dade County Traumatic Brain Injuries Law Offices of Greenberg Stone and Urbano have represented many clients that have suffered traumatic brain injuries. Visit our website to learn more about our firm and contact us today for a free consultation.

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