Part of the reason why traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are so serious is that the chances of recovery may be unknown. In the past, doctors’ predictions on unconscious TBI patients’ recovery chances have been little more than a coin toss.
All of that may now be changing thanks to Israeli researchers at that country’s Weizmann Institute. There, a neurobiologist co-authored a study that determined that patients in varying stages of unconsciousness can still respond to various scents. The degree of their unconscious responses turns out to be a valid indicator of whether they will ever recover from their comatose states.
These findings may be a real game-changer for TBI patients, their families and the medical professionals who treat these brain injury patients. The premise of the study is that patients be given an odor to sniff, e.g., rotting fish or a sweet shampoo, while their brains are monitored and their consciousness is gauged. Those with a noticeable sniff response have at least some level of consciousness and will likely live at least three years. Those without the olfactory response are far less likely to survive their brain injuries and have no indication of consciousness.
This simple sniff test could potentially change the treatment trajectory and help families and medical professionals come to decisions about when to withdraw life support and when to continue life-saving measures.
Traumatic brain injuries are complex and the treatments for these patients can be prolonged and quite costly. After a brain injury caused by another individual’s negligence, it may be necessary to seek legal redress and financial compensation for your losses and damages.