Study: fMRI Helps Predict Long-Term Concussion Symptoms

The authors of a new study suggest that using a new functional MRI (fMRI) technique could help physicians earlier predict which concussion sufferers are likely to deal with recurring symptoms months or even years after being concussed. 

The investigators evaluated 3T diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) for white matter injury in 76 adult mild traumatic brain injury patients at the semi-acute stage, employing both whole-brain voxel-wise and region-of-interest approaches.
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The subgroup of 32 patients with any traumatic intracranial lesion on either day-of-injury computed tomography (CT) or semi-acute MRI demonstrated reduced fractional anisotropy in numerous white matter tracts, compared to 50 control subjects. In contrast, 44 CT/MRI-negative mTBI patients demonstrated no significant difference in any DTI parameter, compared to controls.

"When faced with patients with persistent symptoms weeks or even months after concussion, primary care practitioners should consider brain MRI, preferably at 3 Tesla and with a dedicated protocol for TBI, which might disclose findings that would affect the prognosis of time course for recovery," said Pratik Mukherjee, MD, PhD, professor of radiology and bioengineering and attending neuroradiologist at the University of California, San Francisco and co-author of the study. 

"Even if the clinical MRI is normal, there still may be functional disconnection in the brain that can be revealed by more advanced techniques such as fMRI, as shown in our study," said Mukherjee, adding that he and his colleagues from this study "are continuing work in an ongoing larger multicenter study across the United States to prove that fMRI can provide better prognostic information than conventional MRI, at which point it will be ready for routine clinical use in concussion patients."

—Mark McGraw


Yuh EL, Cooper SR, Mukherjee P et al. Diffusion Tensor Imaging for Outcome Prediction in Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: A TRACK-TBI Study. J Neurotrauma.