News / Health

New Imaging Technique Reveals Mild Brain Injuries in Soldiers

Jessica Berman

Researchers are using an advanced imaging technique to help diagnose mild blast-related traumatic brain injuries in soldiers whose wounds don’t usually show up in conventional brain imaging scans. Scientists are hopeful the new technique will enable doctors to identify many previously untreated brain-injury victims, and help them get the medical care they need.

An estimated 320,000 military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered traumatic brain injuries. Often these injuries are classified as mild because they do not show up on brain scans, making subsequent symptoms, like brain fog or forgetfulness, difficult to treat.

But in a new study, an advanced brain imaging technique called diffusion tensor imaging was able to find abnormalities in the white matter brain tissue of soldiers who had sustained mild blast-related traumatic brain injuries, or TBI.   White matter is a critical part of the brain’s wiring system that allows nerve cells to communicate with one another.

Conducted by investigators at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, the small study involved 63 soldiers who had sustained mild TBIs as a result of battlefield blasts plus other injuries such as falls, motor vehicle injuries or being struck by blunt objects.

There was also a control group of 21 military personnel who had been injured in blasts but were not diagnosed with TBI.

Washington University neurology researcher Christine MacDonald says tensor imaging allows scientists to see the movement of water through injured brain tissue, something that’s not seen in other types of brain imaging.

MacDonald says investigators noted the presence of water in the white matter on initial scans taken in Germany approximately fourteen days after the initial injury.

MacDonald says researchers then saw faint but discernable changes in water flow, or diffusion, in follow-up tensor scans six to 12 months later, after the soldiers had returned to St. Louis. "This diffusion of water is in line with what we expect for injury and its progression over time.  Versus something that would, say, be pre-existing," she said.

Researchers noted white matter abnormalities in the tensor images of 18 of 63 patients in the study who had been diagnosed with concussions.  They were not seen in 21 patients diagnosed with other types of injuries.

A diagnosis of TBI is controversial because experts are not sure whether the symptoms following mild traumatic brain injury are due to disruptions in brain chemistry, structural changes, physiological factors or a combination of all three.

At this point, MacDonald says experts are unsure what role, if any, the white matter abnormalities play in factors like altered attention, memory and, importantly, post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition which plagues many returning veterans.

MacDonald says studies continue to explore whether diffusion imaging could be a useful tool in helping to identify the source of the lingering effects of traumatic brain injury.

“Long term, years down the line, possibly this could be something that would be an assisted diagnostic tool.  But that’s really something that’s outside the scope of this current manuscript; but definitely hope long term,"she said.

An article describing the discovery brain abnormalities in people with mild blast-related traumatic brain injury is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid