UK HealthCare

Experimental Treatment Shows Promise in Treating Traumatic Brain Injury

Dr. Kevin Hatton, the division chief of Anesthesiology Critical Care Medicine at UK HealthCare, poses next to the hyperbaric oxygen treatment chamber.
UKHC research team explains use of HBO treatment for patients with traumatic brain injury.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 1, 2021) — The University of Kentucky Department of Emergency Medicine, in collaboration with the University of Kentucky Departments of Neurosurgery and Anesthesiology, is part of a national research study to determine if high-dose oxygen given under pressure (hyperbaric oxygen) will improve recovery following very severe traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

TBIs are life-threatening. They contribute to a substantial number of deaths as well as cases of permanent disability and lasting neurological deficits. Caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain, TBIs require immediate intervention.

Currently, there are no FDA-approved treatments for TBI. Hyperbaric oxygen treatment (HBO) is a treatment that is now being experimentally studied in adult patients with severe TBI. Hyperbaric oxygen treatment is a specialized way, using a pressure chamber, to dramatically increase the amount of oxygen delivered to body tissues. HBO is already being used to treat patients with chronic non-healing wounds and scuba divers as the very high levels of oxygen help speed the healing processes. In pre-clinical studies of patients with TBI, hyperbaric oxygen treatment has also been shown to increase oxygen delivery to the traumatized brain, preventing further cell death in the injured brain.

While it is experimental, Dr. Kevin Hatton, chief of the Division of Anesthesiology Critical Care Medicine at UK HealthCare, said the therapy shows significant promise.

“The key is treating patients quickly,” Hatton said. “As soon as a patient with severe TBI hits our emergency department, we want to administer this type of treatment.” Due to the fast-paced nature of emergency treatment, however, some patients will be enrolled in this study without consent if a family member or representative is not rapidly available. All patients will receive standard care for their TBI.

Learn more about HBO2 treatment or how to opt-out.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.