MRI Shows Promise in Treating Post Concussion Syndrome

New findings suggest MRI shows changes in the brains of people with post-concussion syndrome (PCS).  These findings are from a new study published online in the journal Radiology. Researchers hope the results point the way to improved detection and treatment for the disorder.

Concussion Defined

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that alters the way your brain functions. Effects are usually temporary, but can include problems with headache, concentration, memory, judgment, balance and coordination, light sensitivity and more.

Many concussions are usually caused by a blow to the head.  But they can also occur when the head and upper body are violently shaken in a very short period of time – milliseconds. These injuries can cause a loss of consciousness, but most concussions do not. Because of this, some people have concussions and don’t realize it.

Concussions are common, particularly if you play a contact sport, such as football. But every concussion injures your brain to some extent. This injury needs time and rest to heal properly. Luckily, most concussive traumatic brain injuries are mild, and people usually recover fully. However in making that statement one must acknowledge that there are a percentage – 15-25% – of concussions that do not fully recover.

 Post Concussion Syndrome affects approximately 20 percent to 30 percent of people who suffer mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) — defined by the World Health Organization as a traumatic event causing brief loss of consciousness and/or transient memory dysfunction or disorientation.

Conventional neuroimaging cannot distinguish which Mild Traumatic Brain Injury patients will develop Post Concussion Syndrome.  "Conventional imaging with CT or MRI is pretty much normal in Mild Traumatic Brain Injury patients, even though some go on to develop symptoms, including severe cognitive problems," said Yulin Ge, M.D., associate professor, Department of Radiology at the NYU School of Medicine in New York City.

In my years of practice, I have witnessed clear mild Traumatic Brain Injury in clients who have been in an accident.  Sometimes the person is markedly forgetful, lacks the ability to concentrate and communicate, stays isolated socially, or any other of a myriad of symptoms.  However the MRI of the brain is "normal."  People trying to disprove the Brain Injury love to cling to this finding.  It is objective and can get quite a bit of mileage for those defending a traumatic brain injury case.  They’ll say the person is faking or lying about the injury.

  • The Study

For the new study, Dr. Ge and colleagues used resting-state functional MRI to compare 23 MTBI patients who had post-traumatic symptoms within two months of the injury and 18 age-matched healthy controls. Resting state MRI detects distinct changes in baseline oxygen level fluctuations associated with brain functional networks between patients with MTBI and control patients.

The MRI results showed that communication and information integration in the brain were disrupted among key DMN structures after mild head injury, and that the brain tapped into different neural resources to compensate for the impaired function.

Findings like these will make it easier to detect, identify and treat people who fall into the mild traumatic brain injury category.  And it will make proving the injury and its affects easier.