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DTI Reveals: Kids’ Concussion Damage Lingers

December 13, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Diagnostic Imaging, Neuroradiology, Pediatric Radiology
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Diffusion tensor imaging has revealed something scary about children who suffer concussions: the injury to the brain lingers for months after symptoms subside.

A study at the Mind Research Network in Albuquerque, New Mexico, looked at children ages 10-17. DTI showed that structural abnormalities in the brain’s white matter remained—virtually unchanged—more than three months after mild traumatic brain injury had occurred, even though the children reported no lasting symptoms by then.

Said Andrew Mayer, PhD, lead author of an article reporting the research:

These findings may have important implications about when it is truly safe for a child to resume physical activities that may produce a second concussion, potentially further injuring an already vulnerable brain.

Dr. Mayer is associate professor of translational neuroscience at the Mind Research Network and a research assistant professor in the psychology department at the University of New Mexico. He was quoted in a Society for Neuroscience news release. The article was published Wednesday in The Journal of Neuroscience.

The researchers examined 15 children who had suffered a concussion within the previous 21 days, pairing them with 15 healthy children as controls. The children underwent cognitive testing and DTI at the initial examination and again about four months later.

“The magnitude of the white matter changes in children with mild traumatic brain injury was larger than what has been previously reported for adult patients with mild traumatic brain injury,” Dr. Mayer said. “This suggests that developmental differences in the brain or the muscular-skeletal system may render pediatric patients more susceptible to injury.”

An outside expert quoted in the news release brought up an even more disturbing possibility. Christopher Giza, MD, studies developmental traumatic brain injury and neuroplasticity at UCLA’s Brain Research Institute. He suggested:

Further work is needed to determine whether the changes in white matter present at four months represent a prolonged recovery process or permanent change in the brain.

Related seminar: Pediatric Radiology

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