Doctors have successfully reversed “devastating” brain damage in a two-year-old child after she drowned in a swimming pool.
Dr. Hard said of the new study: “Such low-risk medical treatment may have a profound effect on recovery of function in similar patients who are neurologically devastated by drowning.”
Eden Carlson went into cardiac arrest after falling into the family pool in February 2016, and although she was resuscitated at Arkansas Children’s hospital, she had technically been brain dead for two hours by the time medical staff were able to revive her.
A MRI later revealed that the accident had caused deep grey matter injury and cerebral atrophy, with both grey and white matter loss, making the toddler totally unresponsive to all stimuli.
When Carlson was discharged from hospital she had no speech ability, gait or any responsiveness to commands, and was constantly squirming and shaking her head.
The treatment, which happened in two stages, started 55 days later with short-duration treatments that administered 100% normobaric oxygen (oxygen at sea level) through a nasal tube for 45 minutes, twice a day.
Even this first stage saw Carlson experience marked improvements in alertness, waking up and being able to laugh, move her arms, grasp with her left hand, track with her eyes, and eat.
As well as being able to speak in short sequences at her pre-drowning speech level, although she did have diminished vocabulary.
Then at 78-days post drowning, the hyperbaric oxygen therapy began, which required Carlson to ‘dive’ in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber for 45 minutes a day, five days a week, for 40 sessions.
After ten, her mother reported she was “near normal” and after 39 sessions, she had a speech level greater than pre-drowning, near normal motor function, normal cognition and improvement on nearly all neurological exams.
And was able to discontinue her medication.
Dr. Harch said: “The startling regrowth of tissue in this case occurred because we were able to intervene early in a growing child, before long-term tissue degeneration.
“Although it’s impossible to conclude from this single case if the sequential application of normobaric oxygen then HBOT would be more effective than HBOT alone, in the absence of HBOT therapy, short duration, repetitive normobaric oxygen therapy may be an option until HBOT is available.”