A medical first: Brain damage reversed in child who drowned

In February 2016, two-year-old Eden Carlson made it through a baby gate and toppled into the family swimming pool. She was submerged in the cold water for as long as 15 minutes before being found, according to a Newsweek report.

Cliff Mooneyham | Jul 25, 2017

   

In February 2016, two-year-old Eden Carlson made it through a baby gate and toppled into the family swimming pool. She was submerged in the cold water for as long as 15 minutes before being found, according to a Newsweek report.

The toddler was resuscitated and treated at a hospital for more than a month, but remained unresponsive and immobile. MRI scans showed loss of the brain's white and gray matter and profound injury to the gray matter.

Then, researchers at the LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine and the North Dakota School of Medicine decided to try to reverse the child's brain damage by treating her with two kinds of oxygen therapy.

First, physicians began treating Eden with normobaric oxygen, which is given at levels consistent with seal level, for 45 minutes twice a day. Eden then started showing improvement, becoming more alert, laughing, and being able to move her arms and hands. Even some speech began returning.

Later, Eden began hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which is administered inside a special chamber at levels higher than atmospheric pressure. After 39 sessions, she could walk and her speech returned to normal.

"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," said Dr. Paul Harch, who treated Eden, in a statement.

To their knowledge, this is the first reported case of severe brain damage reversal with any type of therapy, the researchers say, adding that, "Such low-risk medical treatment may have a profound effect on recovery of function in similar patients who are neurologically devastated by drowning."

The case is reported in the journal Medical Gas Research.

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