Nav: Home

MRI shows 'brain scars' in military personnel with blast-related concussion

December 15, 2015

OAK BROOK, Ill. - MRI shows brain damage in a surprisingly high percentage of active duty military personnel who suffered blast-related mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), according to a new study appearing online in the journal Radiology.

MTBI, sometimes referred to as a concussion, is very common among U.S. service members returning from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 300,000 service members have been diagnosed with MTBI between 2000 and 2015, according to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center.

Current assessment of MTBI relies heavily on behavioral observations and on patient recall of events, such as post-traumatic amnesia and loss of consciousness. The need for a more definitive marker spurred Gerard Riedy, M.D., Ph.D., from the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., to look at advanced brain imaging with MRI as a tool for assessing MTBI.

"Working at Walter Reed, I saw people with MTBI get routine brain scans and I thought we could do better," Dr. Riedy said.

In what represents the largest study using advanced brain imaging of active military ever performed, Dr. Riedy and colleagues used MRI to study 834 military service members with MTBI related to blast injuries. Slightly more than 84 percent of the patients reported one or more blast-related incidents, and 63 percent reported loss of consciousness at the time of injury.

The MRI scans revealed the presence of white matter T2 hyperintensities, which can be thought of as brain scars, in 52 percent of the MTBI patients.

"We were really surprised to see so much damage to the brain in the MTBI patients," Dr. Riedy said. "It's expected that people with MTBI should have normal MRI results, yet more than 50 percent had these abnormalities."

Pituitary abnormalities were identified in almost a third of MTBI patients. The pituitary, the so-called "master gland" that governs other endocrine gland functions, is located in the base of the brain. Previous research has shown a decline in pituitary function in soldiers who experienced MTBI, perhaps because of blast-related trauma.

The findings represent the first in a series of new studies from the NICoE on advanced brain imaging in MTBI patients, according to Dr. Riedy.

"This paper is just the tip of the iceberg," he said. "We have several more papers coming up that build on these findings and look at brain function, brain wiring, connectivity and perfusion, or brain blood flow."

As the research team builds a database of advanced imaging data, they hope to begin to link the data with the more subjective symptoms associated with MTBI.

"A scar on a brain scan is an objective finding," Dr. Riedy said. "We start with the objective and build a foundation for the correct diagnosis of MTBI and then bring in the subjective measures later."

One key area of focus is the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition caused by a traumatic event or events. PTSD is challenging to diagnose. Symptoms of TBI and PTSD overlap, and treatments for one are unlikely to work for the other.

"An objective measure of traumatic brain injury can lead to proper therapies," Dr. Riedy said.

The ability to see the brain scans has already had an impact on military personnel and their families, Dr. Riedy noted, allowing them to see for the first time what has previously been called the invisible wounds of war.

"Military traumatic brain injury is not a small problem for our country," he said. "Through this research, we hope to learn more about what the future entails for our military personnel who've suffered these injuries."
-end-
"Findings from Structural MR Imaging in Military Traumatic Brain Injury." Collaborating with Dr. Riedy on this paper were Justin S. Senseney, M.S., Wei Liu, D.Sc., John Ollinger, Ph.D., Elyssa Sham, B.A, Pavel Krapiva, M.D., Jigar B. Patel, M.D., Alice Smith, M.D., Ping-Hong Yeh, Ph.D., John Graner, Ph.D., Dominic Nathan, Ph.D., Jesus Caban, Ph.D., Louis M. French, Psy.D., Jamie Harper, M.P.H., Victoria Eskay, B.A., John Morissette, R.T., and Terrence R. Oakes Ph.D.

The research was made possible, in part, by Arnold Fisher, Honorary Chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. The fund used private donations for the construction of the NICoE, a state-of-the-art research, diagnosis and treatment center dedicated to service members diagnosed with TBI and psychological health conditions.

Radiology is edited by Herbert Y. Kressel, M.D., Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass., and owned and published by the Radiological Society of North America, Inc.

RSNA is an association of more than 54,000 radiologists, radiation oncologists, medical physicists and related scientists promoting excellence in patient care and health care delivery through education, research and technologic innovation. The Society is based in Oak Brook, Ill. (RSNA.org)

For patient-friendly information on brain MRI, visit RadiologyInfo.org.

Radiological Society of North America

Related Traumatic Brain Injury Articles:

New test may quickly identify mild traumatic brain injury with underlying brain damage
A new test using peripheral vision reaction time could lead to earlier diagnosis and more effective treatment of mild traumatic brain injury, often referred to as a concussion.
Studies uncover long-term effects of traumatic brain injury
Doctors are beginning to get answers to the question that every parent whose child has had a traumatic brain injury wants to know: What will my child be like 10 years from now?
People with traumatic brain injury approximately 2.5 times more likely to be incarcerated
People who have suffered a traumatic brain injury are approximately 2.5 times more likely to be incarcerated in a federal correctional facility in Canada than people who have not, a new study has found.
Traumatic brain injury associated with long-term psychosocial outcomes
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) during youth is associated with elevated risks of impaired adult functioning, according to a longitudinal study published in PLOS Medicine.
Curbing the life-long effects of traumatic brain injury
A fall down the stairs, a car crash, a sports injury or an explosive blast can all cause traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Is traumatic brain injury associated with late-life neurodegenerative conditions?
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) with loss of consciousness was not associated with late-life mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer disease or dementia but it appeared to be associated with increased risk for other neurodegenerative and neuropathologic findings, according to a new article published online by JAMA Neurology.
Link found between traumatic brain injury and Parkinson's, but not Alzheimer's
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) with a loss of consciousness (LOC) may be associated with later development of Parkinson's disease but not Alzheimer's disease or incident dementia.
Novel peptide protects cognitive function after mild traumatic brain injury
Scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have shown that a single dose of a new molecule can protect the brain from inflammation and cognitive impairments following mild traumatic brain injury.
Allen Institute releases powerful new data on the aging brain and traumatic brain injury
The Allen Institute for Brain Science has announced major updates to its online resources available at brain-map.org, including a new resource on Aging, Dementia and Traumatic Brain Injury in collaboration with UW Medicine researchers at the University of Washington, and Group Health.
Developing tools to screen traumatic brain injury therapies
University of Houston biologist Amy Sater will be developing a model for studying traumatic brain injury, thanks to a two-year, $386,000 grant from the Robert J.

Related Traumatic Brain Injury Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Bias And Perception
How does bias distort our thinking, our listening, our beliefs... and even our search results? How can we fight it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas about the unconscious biases that shape us. Guests include writer and broadcaster Yassmin Abdel-Magied, climatologist J. Marshall Shepherd, journalist Andreas Ekström, and experimental psychologist Tony Salvador.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#513 Dinosaur Tails
This week: dinosaurs! We're discussing dinosaur tails, bipedalism, paleontology public outreach, dinosaur MOOCs, and other neat dinosaur related things with Dr. Scott Persons from the University of Alberta, who is also the author of the book "Dinosaurs of the Alberta Badlands".