A team of researchers in Australia received a $755,000 grant to perform a study with the help of a radical new technology to improve the effectiveness of traumatic brain injury (TBI) rehabilitation efforts.
Associate Professor Leanne Togher from the Discipline of Speech Pathology in Sydney, Australia and her research team will use AphasiaBank a huge shared video and text database, data exchange, and analysis tool to conduct the ‘world’s first systematic and comprehensive analysis of speech and language recovery experienced by TBI sufferers whereby researchers will trace the changes in speech and language functioning of TBI patients over an extended three year, post trauma period,’ a Health Canal article reported.
This is good news for the 10 million people a year suffering from TBIs. Until now, there has been a lack of data on the effectiveness of TBI treatment efforts at various stages of recovery. The groundbreaking study has the potential to differentiate between effective and ineffective treatments and treatment schedules, thus making it possible for TBI patients to receive more efficient and better treatments at the most beneficial times during their recovery.
Togher and her team’s efforts funded by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council aims to identify exactly what types of treatments will be most effective at each stage of the recovery and rehabilitation process.
Togher said, ‘we’ve seen patients benefit from treatment at different and varying stages of their recovery. There still remains the question as to whether the greatest degree of improvement occurs in the early, middle or late phases of recovery,’ in the Health Canal article. With the use of AphasiaBank, the researchers will have access to far more data than was previously available in a centralized form.
The study will involve observation, treatment, and assessment of 200 TBI patients from 3 Sydney, Australia hospitals at intervals of 3, 6, and 9 months, and 1, 2, and 3 years after the injury occurred.
The research has potential to reduce some of the vast economic burden TBIs create by developing more efficient and effective treatment strategies and rejecting those treatments found to be ineffective and wasteful. The Health Canal articles reported that the lifetime costs of support and care for Australian TBI victims from 2008 alone would amount to $8.6 billion, while in the U.S., the total TBI care costs amounted to $60 billion in 1995. These figures do not include the harder to analyze costs such as lost employment and decreased productivity.
Togher’s study will prove important for the estimated 70% of TBI patients who will suffer from long-term communication problems. The types of speech issues brain injury patients might face range from dysarthria and aphasia to difficulty navigating social situations, excessive talking, lack of focus, and poor social-assessment skills. These patients then suffer further injury as they lose friends, family members, spouses, and jobs due to their difficulty communicating.
The AphasiaBank-assisted study holds immense promise for millions of TBI sufferers around the globe. Togher and her team’s efforts will hopefully lead to the creation of of highly effective and efficient treatments, helping TBI patients to live with a much higher quality of life than what is currently possible.