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Out of Iraq emerges hope for those with the severest of head injuries
Date:9/24/2008

There may be more hope than has been recognized for some people with severe brain injuries, according to a U.S. neurosurgeon who earlier this year spent four months in Iraq treating soldiers and civilians. Jason Huang, M.D., this week presented his results from his experience in Iraq at the annual meeting of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons in Orlando, Fla.

Huang discussed blast injuries, a type of wound that has affected thousands of U.S. soldiers and others in Iraq. The term includes injuries caused by roadside bombs or improvised explosive devices ("IEDs"), as well as car bombs, suicide bombs, and other blasts.

"This is a type of injury unlike anything seen regularly here in the United States," said Huang, an assistant professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center who is also a major in the U.S. Army Reserve.

"Here we might see gunshot wounds to the head, or severe injuries from motor vehicle accidents, but we don't see blast injuries, and so neurosurgeons haven't really had much experience treating them. What we're seeing in Iraq is different even from injuries suffered by soldiers in previous wars. The extent of the blast injuries was far worse than I ever would have imagined," Huang said.

When Huang arrived in Iraq in January, he received a crucial piece of advice from the departing neurosurgeon. The doctor told Huang that the results of a CT scan a standard initial step with most patients with head injuries should be viewed cautiously when they pertain to people who had been injured by a powerful blast. Huang quickly learned that soldiers with blast injuries oftentimes were worse off than their CT scans indicated, with, for example, more swelling of the brain than a CT scan might indicate.

As a result, Huang took more aggressive surgical measures than he might otherwise have undertaken. One common tool for neurosurgeons is a procedure known as a craniectomy, where a piece o
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Contact: Tom Rickey
tom_rickey@urmc.rochester.edu
585-275-7954
University of Rochester Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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