Old flu drug believed to improve brain injuries

Brain injuries can be catastrophic following a car wreck, worksite mishap or any other accident, and can leave a victim disabled for life. Sometimes the injured person will not know until weeks or months after the accident occurs that the injury has resulted in serious mental impairment.

Luckily, medical advancements are being made all of the time relating to the treatment of brain injuries. Recently, the Boston Globe reported that an outdated flu medicine could actually be used to speed up recovery following brain injuries.

In a new study, the drug known as amantadine helped patients with severe brain injuries recover faster than those who did not receive the treatment. Many of these patients had experienced brain injuries as a result of car accidents or falls, scientists say.

The drug allowed patients to quickly regain basic motor functions such as brushing their teeth and eating, according to the study. More importantly, only 17 percent of the patients who received amantadine remained in a persistent vegetative state, compared to about 32 percent who did not receive the treatment.

Physicians say that this new treatment regimen provides hope for a medical condition that is often seen as untreatable.

About 1.7 million Americans suffer a traumatic brain injury each year. More than 50,000 of these patients die as a result of their injuries, and another 275,000 remain hospitalized with persistent, debilitating ailments, according to government estimates.

Physicians had been using amantadine to treat brain injuries for decades, according to professional groups, but research had failed to confirm its success. The results of the new study were reported in the most recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Although this breakthrough provides hope for those with traumatic brain injury, many questions remain. Physicians are left asking whether the treatment provides long-term benefits or just speeds initial recovery. Only time will tell.

Source: Boston Globe, “Study: Old flu drug speeds brain injury recovery,” Stephanie Nano, Feb. 29, 2012