Laura Ngwenya, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery at the UC College of Medicine and Director of the Neurotrauma Center at UC Health, is finding better ways to care for the region’s neurotrauma patients. When it comes to severe traumatic brain injuries, Ngwenya is determined to provide the best possible care and to pursue innovative clinical improvements through her research.
One area of Ngwenya’s research focuses is spreading depolarizations, otherwise known as “brain tsunamis.” This phenomenon occurs in the brain following a brain injury when the neurons get disrupted and are unable to fire properly in a specific region, and then the disruption spreads like a wave to other areas of the brain over time.
Typically, brain tsunamis can only be detected following surgery for patients with severe brain injuries. But Ngwenya hopes her clinical research on brain tsunamis can help to detect their presence in patients with less serious injuries through non-invasive methods like EEGs.
“If we can detect brain tsunamis in real time, or we can detect them without having to do surgery, then that opens up avenues in terms of how we treat them,” said Ngwenya. “We can think about how to intervene and treat these patients, and how to use this information to improve the patients’ recovery course.”
As a specialist in neurotrauma, Ngwenya’s clinical practice is often focused on saving lives in acute health crises. But she’s also concerned with how to better the lives of her patients into recovery, and her research provides an opportunity to improve long-term patient outcomes.
“A lot of my research is also looking at how do we improve cognitive recovery after a traumatic brain injury and what things we need to do that are not just lifesaving, but also improving quality of life and ability to be reintegrated into society.”
As a faculty member at UC College of Medicine and physician at UC Health, Ngwenya is uniquely positioned to impact the region’s most severe trauma cases.
“Since UC is the only Level I trauma center in the region, there are tremendous opportunities to make a change in the community and ensure that we are providing state-of-the-art care for our patients.”