People who suffer from severe brain injuries may experience serious symptoms, such as seizures, sensory deficiencies and memory loss. Studies show, however, that people who have mild to moderate brain trauma may also experience long-lasting damage. Diffusion Tensor Imaging helps physicians detect mild to moderate brain damage by showing the structure of the brain’s white matter. In a healthy brain, the white matter is very structured, but when damage has occurred, the DTI shows a change in brightness in the white matter. Physicians are then able to find the exact location of the brain trauma and create a treatment plan and therapy targeting that area of the brain.
Prior to DTI being used to detect brain trauma, physicians relied solely on MRIs and CT scans to show if any brain damage has occurred. A study published in Neurology showed that even mild brain injuries can lead to serious damage that may affect a person’s life, including their ability to return to work and function in their daily activities. Researchers used the Glasgow Coma Scale to measure eye movement, general movement and verbal activity. On this scale a score of 15 is the highest. A person measuring 12 to 14 may be considered to have mild brain trauma, while a score below that indicates severe brain damage.
Researchers reevaluated patients with mild brain trauma 12 months post-injury and found that while some patients’ cognitive abilities had improved, others had not. At this point, brain injuries may be permanent and no longer able to improve with continued therapy.