From Our 2012 Archives

Brain-Injury Recovery Varies Widely Among Children

MONDAY, June 18 (HealthDay News) -- Although survival rates for children who sustain brain injuries have improved significantly, it remains difficult to predict how well these children will do in the long term, according to a new evidence review.

The recovery of children with brain injuries is complex, and outcomes may vary widely, the British researchers noted. Protecting these brain-injured children from infections and accidents should be a priority, they said.

The research, published online June 18 in CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal, also found the age at which children sustain a brain injury will have an effect on their recovery. The authors suggested that the common belief that children's developing brains are more resilient may be naive.

"There is no single best approach to describing outcome after acquired brain injury during childhood, and the one chosen must be appropriate to the purpose at hand," Dr. Rob Forsyth, of the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University and Great North Children's Hospital in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, and colleagues wrote in a journal news release.

The researchers looked at pertinent English-language medical literature from 1966 to the present.

Not enough information is available to help doctors and families decide how to proceed with the children's treatment or, in some cases, withdraw care, the researchers said. Challenges to providing care for children with brain injuries should be considered, as should the cause of the injury.

Outcomes often are better following traumatic brain injuries than injuries sustained from oxygen deprivation, such as drowning or suffocation, the analysis found. The researchers said psychological issues these children may face later on could be masked by the initial recovery of their motor skills.

"Early injury alters the entire developmental trajectory, and effects can compound through childhood," the researchers wrote. "This is particularly clear in the literature surrounding pediatric brain injury, where sometimes impressive early motor recoveries obscure the characteristic emergence of cognitive and psychological [effects] in subsequent years."

The researchers concluded that although advanced imaging tests can help doctors determine the severity of brain injuries and improve recovery predictions among adults, these techniques have not been adequately studied for use with children.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

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SOURCE: CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal, news release, June 12, 2012