Doctors Reverse Brain Damage of Toddler Who Nearly Drowned

posted: 07/26/17
by: Amanda Mushro
Dr. Paul Harch,
LSU Health


Eden Carlson's parents hoped for a miracle and through science, they received that miracle.

In 2016, two-year-old Eden fell into her family's swimming pool. She was underwater for fifteen minutes before being discovered. Her mother started CPR and EMT and hospital staff continued, but for two hours, her heart did not beat on its own. What is believed to be a first, scientists have reversed brain damage in the toddler. Using oxygen therapy, scientists were able to restore her ability to walk and talk just months after the accident.

After the accident, Eden was treated in hospital for just over a month, and was unresponsive to all stimuli. Her MRI scans showed deep injury to her brain's grey matter, which plays a major role in allowing the body's central nervous system to function properly.

To reverse the brain damage, researchers at the LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine and the University of North Dakota School of Medicine began treating her with two types of oxygen therapy. First, doctors used normobaric oxygen therapy, which contains oxygen levels similar to sea level. Then they used hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which is a more intensive and oxygen-rich form of treatment.

Treatment started 78 days after the accident, and after both rounds of treatment, an MRI after revealed that the brain damage had been almost completely reversed. Doctors say Eden's young brain and the oxygen therapy together led to the reversal.

Doctors who took care of Eden say oxygen therapy is low-risk, and they believe it should be tested and used further to help children like Eden. Dr. Paul Harch, one of the doctors that treated Eden said "The startling regrowth of tissue in this case occurred because we were able to intervene early in a growing child, before long-term tissue degeneration," he said in a statement to LSU Health New Orleans.

While scientists continue to examine Eden's case and her recovery so that it can be used to help other patients, her mother says "She's getting so much better all the time. In a couple of years, it's going to be like she never had an accident."