Modern medicine has made huge strides in the past decade in the detection, awareness, and treatment of traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Until recently, however, the majority of non-invasive imaging tools were not suitable or able to produce useful results on living brains and patients. Diffusion tensor imaging measures different properties of brain tissue than traditional MRI or CT systems, and is well-suited to detecting even mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBIs), such as those resulting from auto accidents or falls, in living patients. Previously, the only way to positively diagnose an mTBI was through post-mortem examination of the brain tissue.
How diffusion tensor imaging works
While MRIs and fMRIs use magnetic resonance, and CT scans utilize x-rays, diffusion tensor imaging detects and analyzes how water travels through the white matter of the brain. By using similar techniques to an MRI, combined with advanced mathematical equations studying how the brain’s white matter shifts water across various axes, diffusion tensor imaging allows for study of processes of the brain, rather than composition, electrical activity, or structure. It has also been extremely useful in diagnosing and managing diseases such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease and traumatic brain injuries.
Mild traumatic brain injuries are less visible, but equally problematic
In any traumatic brain injury, mild or otherwise, the brain which normally rests in a fluid and tissue protective coating inside the skull, moves suddenly and impacts the skull. This can lead to obvious defects, whether the brain is physically damaged, or has suffered more subtle injuries, where all the structures of the brain appear fine, but the functionality is impaired. Traditional TBIs are visible on some types of scans, while mTBIs often are not, making ultimate diagnosis challenging. Symptoms associated with mTBIs are not unlike those associated with TBIs in general, such as:
- Headaches or seizures
- Memory loss, confusion, or slowness of thought
- Mood changes, such as depression and poor concentration
- Sensory problems, like visual issues, loss of sense of smell, or unusual sensitivity to light and sound
- Fatigue, balance trouble, and sleep disturbances
These symptoms often appear after a delay from the originating trauma, meaning the person may appear to be fine for hours or even days after a head injury, and then later present with even mild versions of a few of these symptoms, signaling that his or her brain has suffered impairment. Prompt diagnosis through this new type of imaging could reduce disregard or errors in diagnosis and hasten treatment, improving patient outcomes. For patients who are suspected to have an mTBI from an auto accident or other injury, DTI can assist with diagnosis and understanding the extent of the damage to the brain. In cases where legal responsibility is being assessed, or compensation allotted, knowing more about the scope of the TBI can lead to more fair outcomes.
Brain injuries of all orders of magnitude are life altering. The Chattanooga brain injury lawyers of Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law have the emotional tact and experience to assist your family past and through the legal obstacles you may encounter. We serve clients in Chattanooga and Cleveland, TN, the surrounding counties and North Georgia. Call us today at 423-799-3532 or complete our contact form to schedule your free consultation.