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Health Spotlight: Ketamine to heal kids’ brains?

Health Spotlight: Ketamine to heal kids’ brains?

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Ketamine is a powerful medication, used as a sedative since the 1970’s, but it’s seldom been used with traumatic brain injuries in children, because for years, it was thought to raise intracranial pressure inside the skull.

However, new research shows ketamine might actually help kids heal.

A few years ago, Will Terry was riding a scooter on vacation, when he toppled over, head first.

“Yes, yes. He was trying to slow down and brake, and when he did, he went over the handlebars and hit his head,” said Catherine Terry, Will’s mother.

Within 30 minutes, he was throwing up.

“I went to get the car, and daddy started carrying Will down to the car, and he lost consciousness,” said Catherine.

Will had suffered a traumatic brain injury. He had surgery in Florida before being flown to the Monroe Carell Junior Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee.

“Right after his accident, he was in a coma, essentially, a month and on a ventilator for a very long time,” said Catherine.

Doctors say traumatic brain injuries hospitalize 50,000 – 60,000 children every year. Can ketamine be the answer to treating these kids? In a study, children from one month to 16 years old were given ketamine post-brain injury.

“In patients who received ketamine, their intracranial pressure – the pressure in their heads – went down,” said Dr. Michael S. Wolf, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Monroe Carell Junior Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

That was critical for Will to have time to heal. He’s 12 now, and taught himself sign language to communicate.

“He is still making tremendous progress. Every day, he’s getting better and stronger and more independent, and so, really, the sky is the limit,” said Catherine.

Eighteen doses of ketamine were administered during actual intracranial crises. In the study, overall, researchers observed a lessening of that pressure. Because the findings represent a shift in thinking that ketamine raises intercranial pressure, doctor wolf will continue with a larger study.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.