Boy with traumatic brain injury making progress with help from ketamine

Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 8:34 PM CDT
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(KPLC) - Ketamine is a powerful medication, used as a sedative since the 1970s, but it’s seldom been used with traumatic brain injuries in children because for years, it was thought to increase pressure inside the skull. However, new research shows ketamine might actually help kids heal.

A few years ago, Will Terry was riding a scooter on vacation when he toppled over, head first.

“He was trying to slow down and brake, and when he did, he went over the handlebars and hit his head,” said Will’s mom, Catherine Terry.

Within 30 minutes, he was throwing up.

“I went to get the car, and Daddy started carrying Will down to the car, and he lost consciousness,” Terry said.

Will had suffered a traumatic brain injury and had surgery in Florida before being flown to Monroe Carell Junior Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

“Right after his accident, he was in a coma, essentially, a month and on a ventilator for a very long time,” said Dr. Michael S. Wolf, a critical care doctor.

Traumatic brain injuries hospitalize 50,000 to 60,000 children every year, and ketamine may be the answer to treating these kids. In a study, children from 1 month to 16 years old were given ketamine post-brain injury.

“In patients who received ketamine, their intracranial pressure – the pressure in their heads – went down,” Wolf said.

That was critical for Will to have time to heal. He’s 12 now and has taught himself sign language to communicate.

“He is still making tremendous progress. Every day he’s getting better and stronger and more independent. And so, really, the sky is the limit,” Terry said.

Eighteen doses of ketamine were administered during actual intracranial crises.