In a First, Drowned Toddler's Brain Damage Is Reversed

Her doctor says it worked because she's so young
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 21, 2017 7:13 AM CDT
In a First, Drowned Toddler's Brain Damage Is Reversed
Eden Carlson drowned in a swimming pool at age 2, was resuscitated, and appears to be the first known case of brain damage reversal.   (Facebook)

When a 2-year-old girl in Arkansas managed to make her way through a baby gate and fall into the family swimming pool, she was submerged in 41-degree water for as many as 15 minutes before she was found. Having technically drowned and suffered a heart attack, Eden Carlson was resuscitated after the February 2016 accident but completely unresponsive to stimuli for a month. Now, in what appears to be a world first, per Newsweek, researchers at the LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine and the University of North Dakota School of Medicine report in Medical Gas Research that they have managed to reverse much of her white and gray matter brain damage using two types of non-invasive oxygen therapy.

"The startling regrowth of tissue ... occurred because we were able to intervene early in a growing child, before long-term tissue degeneration," says Paul Harch, who treated her, in an LSU release. MRI showed deep gray matter injury and both gray and white matter loss, and Eden was unresponsive, couldn't walk or talk, and constantly squirmed. Since researchers started giving her normobaric oxygen therapy (sea-level amounts of oxygen) and hyperbaric oxygen therapy (pure oxygen at higher pressure) for 45 minutes twice a day, she stopped squirming, appeared more alert, began to laugh, and can now talk, climb stairs, and play, reports USA Today. An MRI after her 40th HBOT session showed "near-complete reversal of cortical and white matter atrophy." "She’s getting so much better all the time," her mother says. (Drowning doesn't always involve dying.)

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