Brain and Spine Injury Program

The Brain and Spine Injury Program consists of a number of programs developed to better understand and treat the problems associated with traumatic injury to the central nervous system, brain and spinal cord, in both adults and children. 

The department’s adult clinical neurotrauma division, led by David Okonkwo, MD, PhD, remains a world leader in the treatment of and research into traumatic brain and spinal cord injury. The neurotrauma service works closely with integral colleagues from the Trauma Division, Critical Care Medicine, Neurophysiology, Neuroradiology, and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation to provide the most sophisticated treatments available for brain and spinal cord injury patients.

The department collaborates with investigators worldwide to advance the evaluation, treatment and outcomes of patients suffering traumatic injuries of the spinal column and spinal cord. The Neurotrauma Clinical Trials Center (NCTC) provides the infrastructure necessary to carry out the large number of active research protocols ongoing within the program. Recent trials launched include the first stem cell trial for chronic spinal cord injury to be conducted in Pennsylvania.

Clinical efforts in traumatic brain injury are conducted in collaboration with research carried out through the Brain Trauma Research Center (BTRC) under the direction of C. Edward Dixon, PhD. Research conducted both at the center and at other brain injury research programs clearly demonstrates the potential for improving outcome using therapies designed to treat biochemical derangements that occur following impact to the brain. The BTRC has pioneered efforts using temperature manipulation and cerebral blood flow monitoring in the treatment of severe head injury and has conducted landmark investigations into the mechanisms of induction and recovery of head trauma and secondary injury. 

The Brain and Spine Injury Program supports two distinct neurotrauma fellowship tracks. One track is for neurotrauma, under the direction of Dr. Okonkwo, and the other is for spine and neurotrauma, under the direction of Nitin Agarwal, MD.