MRI technique predicts concussion recovery

Dec. 6, 2012 at 7:32 PM
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CHICAGO, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- A special magnetic resonance imaging technique may help predict which patients who have experienced concussions will improve, U.S. researchers say.

Study leader Dr. Michael Lipton -- an associate director of the Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, and medical director of MRI services at Montefiore -- said 1.7 million people in the United States sustain traumatic brain injuries annually.

Concussions and other mild traumatic brain injuries account for at least 75 percent of the injuries. Following a concussion, some patients experience a brief loss of consciousness. Other symptoms include headache, dizziness, memory loss, attention deficit, depression and anxiety.

Some of these conditions may persist for months, or even years, in as many as 30 percent of concussion patients, Lipton said.

The Einstein study involved 17 patients brought to the emergency department at Montefiore and Jacobi Medical Centers and diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries. Within two weeks of their injuries, the patients underwent diffusion tensor imaging, which "sees" the movement of water molecules within and along axons -- the nerve fibers that constitute the brain's white matter.

Diffusion tensor imaging, allows researchers to measure the uniformity of fractional anisotropy -- water movement through the brain. Areas of low fractional anisotropy indicate axonal injury while areas of abnormally high fractional anisotropy indicate changes in the brain.

Comparing diffusion tensor imaging data taken after the injury to data collected in patient questionnaires one year later, researchers found the presence of abnormally high fractional anisotropy predicted fewer post-concussion symptoms and better functioning. The results suggest the brain may actively compensate for its injuries in patients who exhibit areas of high fractional anisotropy on diffusion tensor imaging, Lipton said.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago.

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