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Office of Neuroscience Research > WUSTL Neuroscience News > Surgery can restore vision in patients with brain injuries

Surgery can restore vision in patients with brain injuries



From the WUSTL Newsroom...

Surgery can restore vision in patients who have suffered hemorrhaging in the eye after a traumatic brain injury, even if the operation doesn’t occur until several months after the injury, according to a small study from vision researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Reviewing cases at three medical centers in different parts of the world, researchers found that surgery to remove the vitreous gel — which fills the space between the lens and the retina — netted 20/20 vision for most patients, even those who were legally blind before the operations.

The researchers, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the Kresge Eye Institute at Wayne State University in Detroit and the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute in India, studied patients who developed hemorrhaging in the eye related to brain injuries suffered in motor vehicle accidents. Prior to surgery, some patients could barely detect a hand waved in front of their faces. But a few months later, the majority had 20/20 vision.

The study is available online in the journal Ophthalmology.

“These patients often have other issues related to brain injury, and we can’t work on the eye until a patient has stabilized,” said principal investigator Rajendra S. Apte, MD, PhD, the Paul A. Cibis Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at Washington University School of Medicine. “It was important to learn how long we could wait to operate without having a negative effect on vision. In the majority of cases, it appears vision can be restored, even if the surgery is done several months after a traumatic brain injury.”

Accident victims and patients who experience brain aneurysms can develop bleeding in the back of the eye considered secondary to increased pressure in the skull due to hemorrhaging elsewhere inside of the head, a condition called Terson syndrome. Such hemorrhaging in the eye is serious because it causes vision loss and indicates that a patient’s life may be in danger.

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