DTI Scans Diagnose Hidden Brain Injuries

DTI, sometimes called DT-MRI, is short for Diffusion Tensor Magnetic Resonance Imaging. This innovative diagnostic technique is a variation on the standard MRI that is used to create images of internal organs through magnetic images. The DTI isolates water movement within the brain, which allows doctors to isolate regions that are not functioning properly. Traditional MRI scans cannot highlight these abnormalities, because they do not have the capability of tracking water molecules in the same way.

Injuries Still Visible After a Year

Researchers with the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis[1] worked with the U.S. Military to determine the effectiveness of DTI scans on veterans who had suffered head injuries in Iraq or Afghanistan. The study proved that the DTI scans were able to isolate abnormal areas in the brain up to a year following the brain injury. This lengthy healing process surprised researchers, because it showed that brain injuries take much longer to fully heal than previously expected. The amount of lingering brain damage varied depending on the severity of the initial injury, but in general, the injuries were healing more slowly than previously thought.

Symptoms without Apparent Cause

This unexpected duration of brain damage helps explain why people who have suffered from a traumatic brain injury often report symptoms long after the MRI scans no longer show damage. Patients commonly complain of long-term effects like confusion, headaches and even loss of consciousness for more than a year following their injury. The new study proves that these symptoms are based on true lingering damage that has not fully healed. Because doctors can now see objective evidence of the injuries so long after injury, they can alter treatment plans, offering more treatment options for suffering patients.

Abnormalities Found in White Matter

The DTI scanner works by tracking the normal patterns of water through the white matter of the brain. When that water flow is disrupted, DTI scans show the problem clearly. Tracking water diffusion allows researchers to see how the water normally flows through healthy parts of the brain’s axons and compare places where water diffusion is obstructed, signaling brain injury.

Expanding Research Efforts

Current research results come from studies conducted on soldiers who suffered intense pressure waves from blasts as well as blunt trauma. Researchers are now working to widen the research to include more types of traumatic brain injuries. The DTI technology does not require new machinery or extensive upgrades to existing MRI machines. A simple software update will allow any standard MRI machine to perform DTI scans. The ease of the updates could make DTI available in hospitals and clinics throughout the country very quickly.

Contact Us

If you or someone you love suffers from traumatic brain injury, contact our office for a free consultation and evaluation of your case. You may have a claim for damages against the responsible party. Our expert attorneys can help you recover costs for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.


[1] http://www.technologyreview.com/biomedicine/37722/?mod=chfeatured

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