New Head Injury Research

Reporter: Shannon Samson

It was a judo throw a few years ago which landed John Sandora on his head and in the emergency room. Sandora suffered a serious concussion that affected him long after he left the hospital. "I would forget things that I knew that I knew -- things like building names or streets names. Things that would instantly come to my memory before."

When patients like Sandora arrive at the hospital, one of the first things doctors need to know is how much pressure is mounting on the brain. That can tell them how much damage has been done and what type of treatment they will need.

The problem is, the only current way to measure brain pressure is to drill into the skill to insert a monitor, a serious procedure that not every hospital can do. Emergency medicine specialist Dr. Brian Hiestand says, "That is an extraordinary invasive procedure. It's only done when the patient's life is at risk."

So Dr. Hiestand and his colleagues at the Ohio State University Medical Center have started testing a much simpler method. To check the pressure on the brain, they are testing the pressure of the patient's eyes. It's simple, fast and painless. And in the 27 patients in a pilot study, they found that those who had normal brain pressure also had normal eye pressure and according to Dr. Hiestand, "Even more interestingly, everyone who had an abnormally elevated brain pressure also had an abnormal eye pressure."

Doctors plan to do more studies, but so far they are encouraged by the idea of measuring brain pressure by testing a patient's eyes, instead of drilling into their skulls. It could someday mean head injury patients like Sandora could be diagnosed quickly and easily and get the best treatment more rapidly.

Head injuries are the most common cause of increased brain pressure, but strokes and infections can also cause it. If pressure is left untreated it could cause brain damage and death.