Head or brain injury pediatric research and clinical trials

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At Boston Children’s Hospital, our care is informed by our research, and our discoveries in the laboratory strengthen the care we provide at each child's bedside. Boston Children’s scientific research program is one of the largest and most active of any pediatric hospital in the world.

In particular, our neurology, neurosurgery, sports medicine and emergency medicine researchers are making new inroads in understanding the causes and progression of head and brain injuries, paving ground for new treatments. Our research projects with promise for treating these injuries include:

Study finds CT scans are frequently unnecessary after head injury

Overall, roughly half of U.S. children taken to hospital emergency departments (EDs) for a head injury receive a head CT scan, often to ease worried parents’ concerns. Yet true traumatic brain injury is uncommon. A multi-center study of more than 40,000 children with minor blunt head trauma, co-led by Boston Children’s Hospital, shows that allowing a period of observation can reduce the use of head CT by as much as half without compromising care – and without exposing children to ionizing radiation. Read more

Kids who receive neuropsychological testing after concussions are sidelined longer

When computerized neuropsychological testing is used, high school athletes suffering from a sports-related concussion are less likely to be returned to play within one week of their injury, according to a study in The American Journal of Sports Medicine co-authored by Boston Children’s clinicians William Meehan and Pierre d'Hemecourt, MD. Read more

A link between head injuries and epilepsy?

As doctors re-examine many of the basic assumptions and long-held understandings about concussions, research by Boston Children’s neurologist Alexander Rotenberg, is shedding light on what happens on a molecular level during brain injuries.

Understanding the genetics behind concussions

NFL Charities, the charitable foundation of the NFL owners, has awarded Boston Children’s Hospital a grant to support sports-related medical research on concussions, specifically examining how genetics may influence a person’s health after repeated concussions. 

“Rewiring” the brain?

Researchers have long sought a factor that can switch on the brain's ability to learn. Now, research led by Takao Hensch, PhD, of Boston Children's FM Kirby Neurobiology Center and the Department of Neurology, has identified such a trigger. Called Otx2, it signals certain cells in the cortex to mature and initiate a critical period—a time window when the brain can readily rewire itself. Learn more.

Stimulating regrowth of damaged nerve fibers

Because injured neurons in the brain or spinal cord can't grow back, damage from spinal cord injury, stroke or other forms of brain injury can't be repaired. But researchers led byBoston  Children’s neurologist Zhigang He, PhD, BM, have found a way to overcome natural inhibitory mechanisms that suppress regeneration, causing nerve fibers to re-grow vigorously. 

Clinical Trials

Boston Children’s is known for pioneering some of the most effective diagnostic tools, therapies and preventive approaches in pediatric medicine. A significant part of our success comes from our commitment to research—and to advancing the frontiers of mental health care by conducting clinical trials.

Boston Children’s coordinates hundreds of clinical trials at any given time. Clinical trials are studies that may involve:

  • evaluating the effectiveness of a new drug therapy
  • testing a new diagnostic procedure or device
  • examining a new treatment method for a particular condition
  • taking a closer look at the causes and progression of specific diseases

While children must meet strict criteria in order to be eligible for a clinical trial, your child may be eligible to take part in a study. Before considering this option, you should be sure to:

  • consult with your child’s treating physician and treatment team
  • gather as much information as possible about the specific course of action outlined in the trial
  • do your own research about the latest breakthroughs relating to your child’s condition

If your physician recommends that your child participate in a clinical trial, you can feel confident that the plan detailed for that study represents the best and most innovative care available. Taking part in a clinical trial at Boston Children’s is entirely voluntary. Our team will be sure to fully address any questions you may have, and you may remove your child from the medical study at any time.

We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

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