Transformative TBI Therapy: How light therapy is changing the way we treat traumatic brain injuries.

Updated: Aug 22, 2020

Keywords: traumatic brain injury, post concussive syndrome, photobiomodulation


How serious are TBIs?

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and the associated effects are a growing concern of many American families today. According to the Center for Disease control there were approximately 2.87 million TBI related emergency department (ED) visits, hospitalization, and deaths in 2014. Over an eight-year span (2006-2014) the number of ED visits increased by an estimated 54% [1]. Lasting symptoms associated with traumatic brain injuries, known as post concussive syndrome, can create short- and long-term disabilities even in people with mild TBIs. The prevalence of post concussive syndrome one week after the traumatic incident has been shown to be as high as 80-90%. Of that, approximately 50% of patients continue to complain of symptoms three months later and 10-15% suffer one year or longer [2]. There is a growing need for awareness, education, and most importantly effective treatments for post concussive syndrome.

What is photobiomodulation?

Photobiomodulation, formerly known as low level light therapy, is changing the way we treat acute and chronic symptoms associated with traumatic brain injuries. Photobiomdoulation is a form of non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) that has been shown effective in helping the brain heal from trauma. Studies have shown the effectiveness of photobiomodulation in increasing synaptic strength and connectivity, modulating neurotransmitter activity, and modifying neural networks [3-4].

How does it work?

Photobiomodulation is a red/near- infrared (NIR) LED that is capable of penetrating through the scalp and skull to affect the health of brain tissue. These NIR wavelengths have an anti-inflammatory effect on specific brain cells called microglia. Glial cells are thought to play a role in mediating the immune response in the brain. This helps to improve energy production and blood flow to the brain; speeding up healing and recovery time of damaged neurons. Human studies have shown improvement in executive functioning, memory, learning, attention, sleep and more in patients who have suffered TBIs [3-5].

What does treatment look like?

While providers use a variety of brands of lasers, all the treatments are painless and non-invasive. Most treatments include contact to the skin with a wand, headband, cap, nasal probe or nasal clip. Typically treatments range from 10-30 minutes. While standardized treatment protocols are still being researched, many studies have shown effectiveness with three visits a week for six weeks, for a total of 18 visits.

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