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Eur Radiol. 2002 Jun;12(6):1237-52. Epub 2002 Apr 19.

Traumatic injuries: imaging of head injuries.

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Croatian Institute for Brain Research, Salata 12, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia.


Due to the forces of acceleration, linear translation, as well as rotational and angular acceleration, the brain undergoes deformation and distortion depending on the site of impact of traumatizing force direction, severity of the traumatizing force, and tissue resistance of the brain. Linear translation of accereration in a closed-head injury can run along the shorter diameter of the skull in latero-lateral direction causing mostly extra-axial lesions (subdural hematoma,epidural hematoma, subarachnoidal hemorrhage) or quite pronounced coup and countercoup contusions. Contusions are considerably less frequently present in medial or paramedial centroaxial blows (fronto-occipital or occipito-frontal). The centroaxial blows produce a different pattern of lesions mostly in the deep structures, causing in some cases a special category of the brain injury, the diffuse axonal injury (DAI). The brain stem can also be damaged, but it is damaged more often in patients who have suffered centroaxial traumatic force direction. Computed tomography and MRI are the most common techniques in patients who have suffered brain injury. Computed tomography is currently the first imaging technique to be used after head injury, in those settings where CT is available. Using CT, scalp, bone, extra-axial hematomas, and parenchymal injury can be demonstrated. Computed tomography is rapid and easily performed also in monitored patients. It is the most relevant imaging procedure for surgical lesions. Computed tomography is a suitable method to follow the dynamics of lesion development giving an insight into the corresponding pathological development of the brain injury. Magnetic resonance imaging is more sensitive for all posttraumatic lesions except skull fractures and subarachnoidal hemorrhage, but scanning time is longer, and the problem with the monitoring of patients outside the MRI field is present. If CT does not demonstrate pathology as can adequately be explained to account for clinical state, MRI is warranted. Follow-up is best done with MRI as it is more sensitive to parenchymal changes. In routine MR protocol gradient-recalled-echo sequences should be included at any other time after a traumatic event since they are very sensitive in detection of hemosiderin as well as former hematoma without hemosiderin. The MR signal intensity varies depending on sequences and time scanning after trauma.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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