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Eur J Nucl Med. 2000 Sep;27(9):1410-4.

Impaired dopaminergic neurotransmission in patients with traumatic brain injury: a SPECT study using 123I-beta-CIT and 123I-IBZM.

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  • 1Department of Nuclear Medicine, University of Innsbruck, Austria.


Structural imaging suggests that traumatic brain injury (TBI) may be associated with disruption of neuronal networks, including the nigrostriatal dopaminergic pathway. However, to date deficits in pre- and/or postsynaptic dopaminergic neurotransmission have not been demonstrated in TBI using functional imaging. We therefore assessed dopaminergic function in ten TBI patients using [123I]2-beta-carbomethoxy-3-beta-(4-iodophenyl)tropane (beta-CIT) and [123I]iodobenzamide (IBZM) single-photon emission tomography (SPET). Average Glasgow Coma Scale score (+/-SD) at the time of head trauma was 5.8+/-4.2. SPET was performed on average 141 days (SD +/-92) after TBI. The SPET images were compared with structural images using cranial computerised tomography (CCT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). SPET was performed with an ADAC Vertex dual-head camera. The activity ratios of striatal to cerebellar uptake were used as a semiquantitative parameter of striatal dopamine transporter (DAT) and D2 receptor (D2R) binding. Compared with age-matched controls, patients with TBI had significantly lower striatal/cerebellar beta-CIT and IBZM binding ratios (P< or =0.01). Overall, the DAT deficit was more marked than the D2R loss. CCT and MRI studies revealed varying cortical and subcortical lesions, with the frontal lobe being most frequently affected whereas the striatum appeared structurally normal in all but one patient. Our findings suggest that nigrostriatal dysfunction may be detected using SPET following TBI despite relative structural preservation of the striatum. Further investigations of possible clinical correlates and efficacy of dopaminergic therapy in patients with TBI seem justified.

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