Univ. of Iowa researching blast injury treatments - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Univ. of Iowa researching blast injury treatments

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -- The Pentagon estimates that more than 350,000 veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may have suffered brain injuries.  Many of those, and other serious injuries, are often the result of blasts on the battle field.  Those injuries can cause serious hemorrhaging and even death.  That's why researchers across the country, including right here in Iowa, are looking at ways to improve treatment for those injuries.

The University of Iowa is conducting two studies that could help improve treatment for soldiers that suffer blast injuries, along with others who have severe visual impairments or brain injuries.  The U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs have awarded the research projects about $2 million.  The researchers hope their efforts will be successful.

Many Iraq and Afghan veterans are coming home with injuries not seen in soldiers from previous wars.  That's largely because of the kinds of explosive being used.

"The most difficult and common injury is a blast-related injury where there isn't actually any head trauma or they don't hit their head on anything, but a blast wave from an explosion comes across the body and that goes through the brain and causes damage to the brain tissue," said Dr. Randy Kardon with the University of Iowa hospital.

Treating those injuries can be complicated.  Brain injuries can cause a range of problems, including visual impairments.  Someone with a damaged brain cannot always communicate what they can't see, so researchers at the University of Iowa are experimenting with specialized vision tests using cameras to take an up-close look at the eyes.

"We have to create ways to test if their visual systems are working without having to think about it or make responses.  We use objective reflexes of the brain to measure those things," Dr. Kardon said.

Pin-pointing problem areas means doctors can deliver more effective treatment to patients.  For other soldiers, injuries from blast waves can create several small brain hemorrhages, which can be deadly, especially if they're not detected early.  Physicians in Iowa are working with a colleague who's found a way to use tiny nano-particles to more effectively treat hemorrhaging.

"She's linked a specialized chemical that stops bleeding and plugs leaking sites in very small blood vessels," said Dr. Kardon.

It's these kinds of cutting edge treatments that could help save the lives of soldiers long after they return home from the war zone.

The visual impairment study will use the specialized eye sight tests in humans over the next three years.  Mice will be used to test the effectiveness of the nano-particle treatment of brain hemorrhages during the next four years.

The University of Iowa is still looking for study participants.  If you or someone you know might qualify, contact Dr. Kardon with the University of Iowa Ophthalmology Center by calling (319) 356-2864.

KWWL Reporter:  Kera Mashek

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