I-Team 8

Veterans needed for Indiana brain injury research

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana lawmakers have put $1 million toward research of traumatic brain injuries suffered by veterans.

Indiana is the first state to use public funds for what is considered experimental or off-label treatment of traumatic brain injuries. The Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering on Purdue’s campus is conducting the research.  

Art Terlep, a former Air Force captain, is administering the research program. Two years ago, he was looking for 40 veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries. Close to a dozen had signed up when the coronavirus shut everything down.  

The program needs hospitals with hyperbaric oxygen chambers to participate. Currently, Clark Memorial Hospital in Jeffersonville is the only participating hospital.  

The pandemic shutdown bought the research some time and with a new bill, Indiana lawmakers have extended funding and made it easier for new hospitals to participate, which requires assistance from the Indiana State Department of Health.

“It makes it easier for the state health department to bring on facilities and assures those facilities get paid regardless of whether or not the patient is successful, whether or not they produce a result,” Terlep said.  

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, commonly called HBOT, has not been approved for traumatic brain injuries by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Volunteers in the Purdue research will get 40 treatments and a series of MRIs before, during and after.  

During HBOT therapy, the patient breathes pure oxygen in a pressurized room or tube. The air pressure is increased to three times higher than normal air pressure. Under these conditions, lungs can gather more oxygen than normal. The therapy is approved for some wound care, but research on how or if it affects brain injuries is limited or anecdotal. Purdue’s research is the first fully funded by a state and given extra time by the pandemic.

“The program deadline has been extended so we have a lot more time to do research, which will enable us to get all the population we want and the number of participates we want,” Terlep said.  

The bill passed by lawmakers is waiting for the governor’s signature. Purdue is looking for 39 veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury willing to go through several months of testing. 

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