Technological advances are giving severely injured accident victims a greater chance at recovery. They are helping doctors diagnose serious injuries more quickly and setting the stage for better medical treatment. While patients will still have a long road ahead of them, they have a greater chance of survival and regaining some function.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are perhaps the most critical conditions that accident victims suffer. These can be permanent, and they could keep victims from living a normal life. Brain injuries must be diagnosed and treated quickly because they can cause long-term damage if undetected.
Physicians now have technology that can detect the scope of brain injuries quickly. While CT scans could give an immediate view, the detail is limited. There are new brain imaging technologies that give more than the two-dimensional view that doctors get from CT scans. Doctors can now begin treatment sooner.
Technology has also improved the actual treatment of TBIs. Assistive technologies monitor patients’ movements and provide advice and guidance. While TBIs cannot yet be cured, patients can learn to better live with them through rehabilitative technology.
Activity Assistant is an example of this new technology. It is a promising new device that helps accident victims relearn key functions. It is a biofeedback system that works when patients are performing activities such as using and manipulating objects. Activity Assistant monitors patients’ movements and provides interactive assistance to complete the task as they gradually increase their activities. This technology supplements occupational and physical therapies.
Spinal cord damage is another common severe accident injury. Spinal cord epidural stimulation is the latest technological advance in this field. This procedure involves using electrical currents to stimulate the nerves in the lower spinal cord column. The doctor implants an electrode into the epidural space, and it sends electrical currents that cause muscle contraction. This bypasses the brain-to-spinal cord pathway that is damaged and acts directly on the muscles. Some patients have reported regaining movement and control over their muscles from this procedure.
The first moments in the emergency room are among the most critical. ER physicians must make split-second decisions to save the life of a severely injured patient. These are difficult choices, especially when it involves a complicated surgery. Doctors may not even know if the surgery will make a difference or is worth the risk.
Artificial intelligence offers hope for ER and intensive care doctors. For example, measuring intracranial pressure can yield hundreds of thousands of data points. It can predict the outcome for the accident victim and whether certain procedures may help.
Computers used in critical care are becoming more advanced and predictive. Machine learning models are already in use in some ICUs to predict things like acute kidney damage and recommend certain treatments. Expanded use of this technology could help doctors better stabilize patients in the early key moments after a serious accident.
Technology may not be able to cure severe accident injuries, but it is already improving treatment. This gives victims a better start on the long road back from a catastrophic accident.