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J Neurotrauma. 2008 Sep;25(9):1049-56. doi: 10.1089/neu.2008.0566.

Focal lesions in acute mild traumatic brain injury and neurocognitive outcome: CT versus 3T MRI.

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Neurological Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143, USA.


Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is associated with long-term cognitive deficits. This study compared the detection rate of acute post-traumatic focal lesions on computed tomography (CT) and 3T (Tesla) magnetic resonance (MR) imaging with neurocognitive outcomes. Adults (n = 36; age range, 19-52 years) with a single episode of mTBI (Glasgow Coma Scale 13-15, as well as loss of consciousness and post-traumatic amnesia) were prospectively enrolled and had CT within 24 h of injury and 3T MR within 2 weeks of injury. The CT and MR scans were reviewed by two neuroradiologists who were blinded to clinical information. Twenty-eight of these mTBI subjects and 18 matched healthy volunteers also underwent serial neurocognitive testing. Of the 36 mTBI cases, intraparenchymal lesions were detected in 18 CT and 27 acute MR exams, consisting of hemorrhagic traumatic axonal injury (TAI) (eight CT, 17 MR), non-hemorrhagic TAI (zero CT, four MR), and cerebral contusions (13 CT, 21 MR). Mild TBI patients had significantly worse performance on working memory tasks than matched controls at the acute time point (<2 weeks), and at 1 month and at 1 year post-injury; yet there was no significant correlation of imaging findings with working memory impairment. In conclusion, 3T MR detected parenchymal lesions in 75% of this mTBI cohort with loss of consciousness and post-traumatic amnesia, a much higher rate than CT. However, the CT and 3T MR imaging findings did not account for cognitive impairment, suggesting that newer imaging techniques such as diffusion tensor imaging are needed to provide biomarkers for neurocognitive and functional outcome in mTBI.

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