MRIs Detect Brain Injuries That CT Scans Fail To Find
December 19, 2012

MRIs Detect Brain Injuries That CT Scans Fail To Find

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

Scientists from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center (SFGH) recently discovered that hospital MRIs could help show signs of mild traumatic brain injuries that may not be seen with CT scans. These findings show that improved diagnosis could pave the way for better outcomes and treatment. The results of the clinical trial were recently published in the journal Annals of Neurology.

To begin, the researchers tracked 135 people who were treated for mild traumatic injuries over a two-year period at SFGH, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), and the University Medical Center Brackenridge in Austin, Texas.

The participants who had brain injuries were first given CT scans, and later given MRIs a week after. For a majority of the patients (99), there were no observable signs of injury on the CT scan but over a quarter (27/99) of those who first had a “normal” CT scan later showed “focal lesions” or detectable spots on the MRI scans. In particular, the “focal lesions” relate to microscopic bleeding found in the brain.

“This work raises questions of how we´re currently managing patients via CT scan,” explained the study´s senior author Dr. Geoffrey Manley, who serves as the chief of neurosurgery at SFGH and vice-chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery at UCSF, in a prepared statement. “Having a normal CT scan doesn´t, in fact, say you´re normal,” he added.

The team of investigators believed that finding the focal lesions will assist doctors who make predictions on continuous neurological problems for patients. Approximately 15 percent of individuals who suffer from mild traumatic brain injuries also have long-term neurological consequences. However, at this time, doctors have no clear way of predicting whether patients will have long-term neurological issues due to these mild traumatic brain injuries.

The research comes at a particularly important time as about 1.7 million people in the U.S. suffer from acute head injuries. Of those 1.7 million people, about three-quarters of the patients have mild symptoms like amnesia, temporary loss of consciousness, and other mild symptoms related to mild traumatic brain injuries.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mild traumatic brain injuries can be problematic as many individuals who visit the hospital due to these issues are treated but then released without admittance to the hospital. Furthermore, while people can recover from the mild traumatic injuries, others can suffer from persistent problems that can sometimes become a permanent disability.

“The treatment´s all over the place — if you´re getting treatment at all,” continued Manley in the statement.

The team of investigators believed that the study can help in developing better ways of evaluating patients who have mild traumatic brain injuries. Those in the medical field can also utilize the study in terms of developing more precise tools to look at, monitor, and treat patients with these injuries. Doctors who can detect patients with mild traumatic brain injuries can complete more thorough follow-up and identify if the patient is at risk for long-term consequences.