Traumatic Brain Injuries After a Car Accident: New Brain Imaging Technique
Traumatic brain injuries can result from a blow or jolt to the head or body. In auto accidents, it is very common for the driver or passenger to hit their head or body on something inside of the car. Anytime the brain sustains trauma like this, serious symptoms can show up right away, or take days or weeks to appear. Common symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury include loss of consciousness, headaches, nausea, difficulty sleeping, memory issues or sensory changes. There are many more signs that can point to trauma to the brain. It is critical to have a full examination done after an auto accident to rule out severe brain trauma and prevent the symptoms from getting worse or causing permanent brain damage. Prior to recent medical advancements, detecting trauma in the brain was much more difficult. At Centers for Imaging, we are now utilizing Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), which is a newly developed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique that analyzes the anatomy of nerve cells and a complex neuronal network of the brain.
What is DTI?
DTI technique was first introduced by Peter Basser, Ph.D. in 1994. It is an improved version of conventional MRI where signals are generated from the movement of water molecules. The term ‘diffusion’ refers to random motion of water molecules. In other words, DTI uses the diffusion of water as a probe to determine the anatomy of a brain network, which basically provides information on static anatomy that is not influenced by brain functions. The diffusion of water molecules in a tissue is not the same in all directions. This variation is used in DTI to determine the nerve cell organization in the brain. DTI can produce completely new image contrast, which is very useful in visualizing important brain structures.
How is DTI Performed?
The analysis of water diffusion is performed by applying magnetic field gradients to generate an image that is sensitized to diffusion in a certain direction. A three-dimensional model is then estimated by repeating this process in multiple directions. In other words, the DTI technique involves the delivery of external magnetic pulses to create a random phase shift for water molecules that move. This leads to a loss of signal from diffusing molecules, which creates darker pixels. For example, white matter fibers that are running parallel to the direction of the magnetic field gradient will produce a dark image for that direction. It compares the signal loss with the original signal.
Since diffusion anisotropy is significantly related to the health of the brain’s axons, measurement of this using DTI can also provide substantial insight into neuropathological conditions related to TBI, such as concussion. Concussions are produced by acceleration and deceleration forces on the brain. Structural changes in the brain after concussive injury, such as damage to the axons and bleeding are best detected with diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and susceptibility-weighted imaging (SWI), and are not detectable with conventional structural imaging studies, including computed tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). DTI provides information about the white matter microstructure and fiber tract integrity and is emerging as a valuable tool in refining the diagnosis, prognosis, and management of TBI. Centers for Imaging offers DTI services along with open and closed MRI appointments. With three locations, we are able to serve patients who have been injured in auto accidents and slip and falls throughout Central Florida. If you or a loved one has been suffering from brain injury, cognitive issues or neurological changes after an accident, call (407) 974-6851 today to set up an appointment.