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AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2012 Nov;33(10):1925-31. doi: 10.3174/ajnr.A3092. Epub 2012 May 10.

Severe traumatic head injury: prognostic value of brain stem injuries detected at MRI.

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Department of Radiology, Hospital 12 de Octubre, Madrid, Spain.



Traumatic brain injuries represent an important cause of death for young people. The main objectives of this work are to correlate brain stem injuries detected at MR imaging with outcome at 6 months in patients with severe TBI, and to determine which MR imaging findings could be related to a worse prognosis.


One hundred and eight patients with severe TBI were studied by MR imaging in the first 30 days after trauma. Brain stem injury was categorized as anterior or posterior, hemorrhagic or nonhemorrhagic, and unilateral or bilateral. Outcome measures were GOSE and Barthel Index 6 months postinjury. The relationship between MR imaging findings of brain stem injuries, outcome, and disability was explored by univariate analysis. Prognostic capability of MR imaging findings was also explored by calculation of sensitivity, specificity, and area under the ROC curve for poor and good outcome.


Brain stem lesions were detected in 51 patients, of whom 66% showed a poor outcome, as expressed by the GOSE scale. Bilateral involvement was strongly associated with poor outcome (P < .05). Posterior location showed the best discriminatory capability in terms of outcome (OR 6.8, P < .05) and disability (OR 4.8, P < .01). The addition of nonhemorrhagic and anterior lesions or unilateral injuries showed the highest odds and best discriminatory capacity for good outcome.


The prognosis worsens in direct relationship to the extent of traumatic injury. Posterior and bilateral brain stem injuries detected at MR imaging are poor prognostic signs. Nonhemorrhagic injuries showed the highest positive predictive value for good outcome.

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