National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships
Center for Compassionate Care Innovation
LED treatment improves cognitive function for mTBI patients
A collaboration between the VHA Center for Compassionate Care Innovation (CCI) and the VA Boston Healthcare System (VABHCS) is showing positive outcomes for Veterans experiencing mild to moderate traumatic brain injury (mTBI) symptoms, according to VABHCS clinical LED program lead and researcher Dr. Yelena Bogdanova. The treatment can be done at home, which is in line with the latest recommendations from VA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in response to coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns.
Before engaging in light-emitting diode (LED) treatment, the mTBI patients reported a history of cognitive and neuropsychiatric symptoms relating to attention, sleep, and mood. The Veterans also reported they’d had symptoms for at least six months and that other evidence-based treatments they tried were unsuccessful in helping them feel completely better.
VHA providers have been referring their patients for LED therapy as an approach to addressing mTBI symptoms that is noninvasive and doesn’t require medications. This treatment involves the patient wearing a headset affixed with near-infrared LEDs, which transmit energy without generating heat. Patients usually begin treatment with an outpatient visit supervised by Polytrauma clinical staff. Veterans then complete 30-minute treatment sessions at home three times a week for 12 weeks. Clinicians check in on their progress regularly via telehealth technology and in-office visits at six, 12, and 24 weeks after the initial treatment. Recently, all treatment sessions, including the first visit, have been conducted as telehealth appointments, in accordance with COVID-19 recommendations.
Since the program’s launch in 2017, 120 Veterans have been treated successfully, according to Dr. Bogdanova. She shared, based on the clinical assessments completed, that all patients “demonstrated significant improvement in at least two functional domains,” and that “no adverse effects were reported.” She also shared that patients reported “more energy than ever” and “haven’t slept this well in ‘decades’.” One patient’s “headaches are much more mild … not as frequent,” she wrote, and another experienced “better mental clarity.” Another patient reported even receiving a promotion after his “boss noticed changes in his performance.” One Veteran, Mr. Michael Sellars, also described relief from his TBI symptoms.
Due in part to its successful outcomes among Veterans, the LED clinical model for mTBI treatment was selected for presentation at VA’s 2020 Veteran Patient Experience Symposium, originally scheduled for May. (See the webpage for last year’s event here.) The LED therapy program is a CCI collaboration; CCI explores emerging therapies that are safe and ethical to enhance Veterans’ physical and mental well-being. TBI is one of CCI’s focus areas, along with suicidality, posttraumatic stress disorder, and chronic pain.
“The VABHCS clinic is yet another example of how innovative partnerships and collaborations can improve VHA’s ability to deliver high-quality, cutting-edge patient care,” said Dr. Tracy Weistreich, Nurse Executive of the VHA Office of Community Engagement (OCE). CCI is a program within OCE.
To learn more about CCI’s collaboration with the VABHCS LED TBI clinical program, please contact CommunityEngagement@va.gov. To learn more about CCI, visit https://www.va.gov/HEALTHPARTNERSHIPS/CCIMission.asp.
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Posted June 15, 2020