Using Hormones to Heal Traumatic Brain InjuriesJanuary 2012
By Joseph Carrington
Growth Hormone: A Critical Player
Growth hormone is the most common hormone deficiency or insufficiency in patients with traumatic brain injury at any level of severity.16-19 Deficiencies in this hormone are especially marked in patients with moderate to severe traumatic brain injury.20 Brain-injured patients with growth hormone deficiency experience rapid weight gain and have substantially lower levels of other hormones as well.17,19 Low growth hormone levels are also associated with excessive anxiety and depression and poor physical health and quality of life.15,21 Finally, brain-injured patients with growth hormone deficiency show greater deficits in attention, executive functioning, memory, and emotion than those with normal growth hormone levels.22
Growth hormone is an intriguing hormone, and we are learning more about it each year. In children, it is responsible for regulating linear growth, ultimately determining adult height and body proportions. But growth hormone has many other remarkable functions throughout the body and into adulthood. It is neuroprotective, increasing survival of damaged nerve cells and promoting regeneration of nerve tissue.23-25 Growth hormone also increases the number of receptors for other hormones in tissues throughout the body; this has the effect of increasing the body's sensitivity to those hormones' actions, helping to overcome the effects of their deficiencies.26-29
Like all hormones, growth hormone acts by binding to specific cell-surface receptors. Receptors for growth hormone are found throughout the brain, and they are especially densely distributed in brain regions responsible for learning and memory.30,31 That may explain why declining growth hormone levels are associated with poorer cognitive function. Growth hormone levels fall with age and are especially low in Alzheimer's disease.32-36 As Dr. Gordon points out, it is therefore not surprising that traumatic brain injury patients often show symptoms identical to the cognitive decline and memory loss we see with aging and Alzheimer's disease. In essence, a brain-injured patient with low growth hormone levels undergoes accelerated cognitive aging.
Hope for Traumatic Brain Injury Patients at Millennium Health Centers
Dr. Gordon was struck by the obvious paradox: although there is copious evidence that patients with traumatic brain injury suffer from hypothalamic-pituitary hormonal imbalances, and ample expert recommendations for rigorous hormone testing, few physicians were bothering to test their brain-injured patients.2230,37 Worse, despite compelling studies showing the benefits of hormone replacement, virtually no physician was offering such therapy in the United States.
Dr. Gordon decided to act.
Over the course of several years, he has developed a panel of comprehensive hormone testing for survivors of traumatic brain injury (Table 1). Gordon's clinic, Millennium Health Centers, provides primary, or direct, testing to determine how well the hypothalamic-pituitary system is functioning, and also secondary testing, which determines how the target endocrine glands themselves are affected (Table 2). In his practice, Dr. Gordon obtains a complete history and performs a detailed physical examination on each brain-injured patient and correlates those findings with their lab results. From this information he is able to create a treatment protocol for individualized hormone replacement.
Dr. Gordon uses physiologic dosing, not megadoses, of each hormone. His goal is to restore hormone levels to the middle of the optimum range, but he works each patient up to that level slowly, monitoring their cognitive and physical functions monthly.
"Science now has the ability to map the entire brain, and we now know exactly where growth hormone works on mood, which pathways it uses," says Dr. Gordon. "The military is simply not prepared to go to the depths that we have in the private sector."
Patients typically respond within weeks to the Millennium approach. And the responses tend to be dramatic.
Gordon recalls one case in particular, of a woman who had been involved in a "T-bone" car crash - a notoriously deadly situation in which the victim's vehicle is hit full-force from the side. The patient was left with multiple neurological deficits. She spoke with a stutter and needed to keep one hand on the wall as she walked in order to maintain her balance. She had substantial memory impairment as well.
After a series of blood tests, Dr. Gordon began administering small doses of the hormones that were deficient in this patient's case. She soon showed encouraging progress, with diminished speech and balance impairment. Gordon recalls with obvious delight, "One day about six months later, I got a phone call from a woman who said, in a perfectly normal voice, ‘Hi, this is your patient Nancy.' I told her to stop joking and asked who it was. ‘I'm your patient, Nancy, the one with the bad stutter. I woke up this morning, and this is how I was able to speak. I just wanted to let you know.'"
Nancy's case, though dramatic, is far from unique.
Since that time, Dr. Gordon has treated scores of other patients with similar outcomes, which is why military veterans coming to him are in good hands: he has obtained a grant from Access Medical Laboratories in Jupiter, Florida, which currently covers the cost of testing veterans with traumatic brain injury. "They've arranged for a phlebotomy company to go to the veterans' homes and draw blood. Lab tests use a spectrum that goes way beyond typical blood tests, providing a bigger database." Any treatment starts with baseline hormone testing of testosterone, growth hormone, thyroid, and cortisol.
His work is attracting international attention, and he has been invited to lecture on his hormone-balancing approach at prestigious conferences around the world. Dr. Gordon is actively recruiting other physicians to learn from him so that they can apply his techniques in their own practices.
Traumatic brain injury leaves millions of survivors with substantial impairments in physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral consequences each year. Despite high-tech diagnostic and treatment protocols, mainstream medicine has managed to do little to overcome these long-term pathologies. The recent discovery that traumatic brain injury, by damaging the brain's hypothalamus, triggers dysfunction of the pituitary gland, led Dr. Mark Gordon on a mission to identify and treat the resulting hormonal deficiencies in his patients with traumatic brain injury. Restoring hormone levels to their optimal, pre-injury and youthful levels results in remarkable recovery of many of the impaired functions.
Patients with traumatic brain injury, or their family members, may visit Millennium's website at www.TBImedlegal.com, or call 818-990-1166 in order to set up initial lab testing. Information at the website also lets patients know what a typical course of treatment involves.
If you are a veteran of the Gulf War, Iraq, or Afghanistan, The Millennium Health Centers has a limited grant from Access Medical Laboratories of Florida that will pay for your TBI Hormone Panel. In California, Dr. Gordon offers the same TBI Hormone Panel to law enforcement officers injured on the job. We care for those who take care of us!
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