Family members seeking information about a loved one’s brain injury might discover that hard facts are surprisingly difficult to find.
Hospitals can offer a degree of knowledge, as can certain foundations and nonprofits, but by and large much practical information about brain injuries literally remains in the dark.
A new database from the National Institutes of Health, called the Federal Interagency Traumatic Brain Injury Research Database (FITBIR), hopes to slowly change that. In response to growing interest about traumatic brain injuries (particularly those suffered by American Service People), the NIH will be rolling out the database over the next four years.
“Uniform data makes it much easier to compare intervention results across a broad range of studies, providing innovative and unique insights that are not possibly from a single study,” said Dr. Matthew McAuliffe, co-director of the FITBIR database. “This is part of a larger effort by the government to make taxpayer-funded research more broadly available and usable.”
According to the NIH’s Web site, the database will help to:
- Classify different types of traumatic brain injuries
- Determine the most effective treatments for people suffering brain injuries
- Identify criteria for milder injuries, including concussions
- Further understand what, if any, effects gender might have on recovery
The database will ultimately compile information from several disparate agencies, including the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Education. A large portion of the information will come from NINDS – The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, MD.
“Only by combining efforts through initiatives such as the FITBIR database can we hope to make major progress in this field,” said Col. Dallas Hack, director of the U.S. Army Combat Casualty Research Program.”
The NIH openly admits that treatment for those with severe brain injuries remains limited at best.
“Cases of traumatic brain injury are highly variable, involving different locations within in the brain and different kinds of damage to the brain tissue,” the NIH said on its Web site. “Such variability makes it difficult for clinicians to treat patients, predict long-term outcomes and investigate new therapies.”
Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), co-chairman of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, agreed, saying in a recent USA Today article that “a lot of people (with traumatic brain injuries) are not getting into rehab.”
According to the NIH, 1.7 million Americans suffer traumatic brain injuries each year as a result of everyday causes, such as auto accidents, strokes and falls. An additional 200,000 American Service members have also been diagnosed with severe brain injuries, as a result of trauma suffered in the field.