New Technology May Shed Light on Traumatic Brain Injuries


Each year roughly 1.7 million people in the United States experience a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Doctors have difficulty predicting the severity of brain injuries. Frequently physicians can’t tell if damage will be permanent, or if a patient will make a full recovery. A new technology may literally shed some light on this problem, by illuminating breaks in the wiring of the brain with MRI-based scans.

Currently standard scans just indicate bleeding or swelling, but this doesn’t explain much about the degree of damage caused by the brain injury. As a neurosurgeon from the University of Pittsburgh explained, “You can have a patient with severe swelling who goes on to have a normal recovery, and patients with severe swelling who go on to die.”

Fiber tracts connect brain cells and allow them to communicate with one another. This new technology, called high-definition fiber tracking, maps the tracts and color codes them by function. Experts can analyze breaks in the fibers that could prevent nerve connections from working properly. Additionally, through what is called “diffusion tensor imaging,” doctors can look even closer at nerve fibers for potential damage. This enables doctors to better diagnose the severity of injuries, give a more accurate prognosis for recovery and provide the most appropriate treatment.

The new technology will soon be used at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to study soldiers receiving care for TBIs. If it proves successfully, hopefully it will be implemented by hospitals across the U.S.

Source: The, Researchers aim to find invisible damage traumatic brain injury leaves behind, Lauran Neergaard, 4 March 2012

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