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Podcast: The ‘Havana Syndrome’ Mystery and Diagnosing Traumatic Brain Injury

What if concussion could be diagnosed immediately, in the setting where the injury has occurred? Michael Hoffer, M.D., professor of otolaryngology and neurological surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, joins Inside U Miami Medicine to discuss an innovative technology — in the form of “virtual reality” goggles — that could be a game changer for identifying mild traumatic brain injury at the point of care.

Dr. Michael Hoffer and Dean Henri Ford seated and talking
(From left) Michael Hoffer, M.D., and Dean Henri Ford

“We took the goggles right to the athletes on the field and were able to do the diagnosis,” said Dr. Hoffer.

In addition to testing on NFL, Formula 1, and NCAA athletes, the technology was also used to rule out traumatic brain injury in another subset of individuals — U.S. government employees in Havana, Cuba, when “Havana Syndrome” began. In 2016, embassy employees in Havana reported severe, unexplained health problems including ear pain, dizziness, and other neurological disturbances.

Dr. Hoffer was on the frontlines of this medical mystery that engrossed the world.

“I was sitting at my desk, and I get a phone call…and the phone call is from the State Department. They said, ‘We have a problem,’” Dr. Hoffer recalled.

Dr. Hoffer and Dean Ford throw the U

Listeners will hear about Dr. Hoffer’s in-depth involvement in diagnosing and treating patients affected by Havana Syndrome (spoiler alert: it’s not technically a syndrome) and the long-term neurological effects of the occurrence.

“We tested the Havana patients for traumatic brain injury, but it was much more homogeneous, and the pattern of injury looked different,” he said.

Find this fascinating episode here or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Tags: Department of Neurological Surgery, Department of Otolaryngology, Dr. Michael E. Hoffer, Havana Syndrome, Inside U Miami Medicine podcast, mild traumatic brain injury