A military study done at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri and abroad looking that the brains of blast injured servicemen from Iraq and Afghanistan shows a ‘early first step’ toward possibly having the imaging technology to discover concussions;
Using a highly sensitive type of magnetic resonance imaging, researchers studied 63 servicemen wounded by explosions in Iraq or Afghanistan and found evidence of brain injuries in some that were too subtle to be detected by standard scans. All the men already had a diagnosis of mild traumatic brain injury (synonymous with concussion), based on symptoms like having lost consciousness in the blast, having no memory of it or feeling dazed immediately afterward.
As reported in the New York Times Dr. David Brody and his colleagues have posted a study in the New England Journal of Medicine looking at the diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) a function of a standard MRI. This type of imaging study does not take any longer to perform but can look even ‘deeper’ in the brain for subtle changes;
The test measures the movement of water in nerve fibers in the brain; abnormal flow may indicate injury. Changes can be detected in bundles of thousands of axons, the fibers that carry signals…
In 2008 and 2009, the researchers performed diffusion tensor imaging on 63 men who had recently sustained mild traumatic brain injuries from blasts; all but one had normal results on a standard M.R.I. For comparison, 21 control subjects were also scanned — men exposed to blasts recently but with no symptoms of concussion.
Eighteen of the 63 men with traumatic brain injury had abnormalities consistent with nerve injury in two or more brain regions, areas not usually damaged by other types of mild head injury.
DTI has been gaining more and more interest from researchers in the area of mTBI or concussions. Currently there is no imaging technique that can detect this, in fact there is not a diagnostic tool to detect concussions other than a comprehensive evaluation performed by a doctor or athletic trainer. Even then most of the information is purely subjective, so the sensitivity is in the tester, making this a difficult injury, but one that can be handled.