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Doctor bringing his brain surgery message to Aspen

Aspen Times Staff Report

Dr. Jamshid Ghajar will explain the science behind brain trauma and his method of protocol treatment in a presentation Thursday at Aspen’s Given Institute.

The free public lecture, which will include a short video presentation and question-and-answer session, will begin at 6 p.m., following a 5:30 reception. The public is invited to attend. Seating is limited to 200 on a first-come, first-served basis.

The presentation, titled “Head Injury: Beating the Odds,” will also discuss a vexing problem – how to convince doctors that the protocol therapy is truly effective. To date, only about 30 percent of American hospitals follow these crucial protocols, and most of them are centers that specialize in traumatic brain injuries.

Dr. Ghajar, who is chief of neurosurgery at New York’s Jamaica Hospital and a member of the department of neurology at New York Presbyterian, is also president of the Brain Trauma Foundation, which educates health-care professionals in the procedures.

“I’ve become something of a missionary,” he said. He works long hours to spread his message, making whirlwind trips to medical conferences all over the world. The media has covered his crusade, and stories about Dr. Ghajar’s work have been featured by Primetime Live, The New Yorker, Nova and many others.

Certainly, the condition Dr. Ghajar battles is not insignificant. Traumatic brain injury is the number one cause of death among Americans up to the age of 45. In the United States, 250,000 people are hospitalized each year with brain trauma, and of these, 50,000 die and another 80,000 become significantly disabled.

In earlier days, the medical community believed brain damage was primarily the result of initial trauma. Ghajar and others have gradually gathered evidence demonstrating that damage may occur hours and even days later as the injured brain swells.

“We’ve questioned neurosurgeons around the world,” said Dr. Ghajar, “and these protocols are the summation of all scientific evidence.”

That evidence showed that damage could be limited during secondary trauma if intercranial pressure were monitored and relieved as necessary. To that end, Dr. Ghajar invented a small device that drills through the skull and implants a catheter to drain away spinal fluid, thereby relieving pressure on the brain.

From the catheter, doctors can monitor the buildup of pressure and take action if it rises above acceptable levels. The protocols also mandate CAT scans and removal of blood clots, as well as increasing the patient’s blood pressure to keep oxygen and nutrients flowing to the brain.

In spite of the success of these methods, fewer than 30 percent of American hospitals monitor intercranial pressure after traumatic brain injury. Dr. Ghajar and a team of fellow neurosurgeons have made a personal crusade of winning over the other 70 percent. Lawmakers are hesitant to legislate a change; so far only New York State requires its doctors to follow the protocols.

Dr. Ghajar’s presentation is the third of five in the Given Institute’s winter lecture series. For more information, call 925-1057.


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