What is traumatic brain injury and why should we care about it? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a traumatic brain injury is a blow or shock to the head, or an injury resulting in a disruption of normal brain function. These injuries may range from mild, meaning a brief change in mental status, to severe, referring to an extended period of unconsciousness.
Unlike many other medical conditions that have a genetic predisposition, traumatic brain injury can happen to anyone. Indeed, the Brain Injury Association of America raises awareness for this condition with the slogan, “Anytime, anywhere, anyone: Brain injuries do not discriminate.” In 2010, 2.5 million cases of traumatic brain injury occurred in the United States, while 138 people die each day from injuries that include traumatic brain injury. We all have a stake in more effectively dealing with this challenging health problem.
Cincinnati Children’s radiology department plays a critical role in providing optimal care for those children who suffer traumatic brain injury. Before the creation of advanced imaging techniques such as CT and MRI, we had no way of looking inside the head to determine the severity and extent of brain injury. Fortunately, today CT and MRI allow us to quickly and accurately diagnose the severity and type of brain injury. This rapid diagnosis is the first step in making time-critical decisions to improve the outcome of our patients with these injuries. Beyond the initial diagnosis, these same imaging procedures allow us to monitor the effectiveness of treatments and provide important prognostic information to help you and your family plan for the future.
Finally, the imaging researchers here at Cincinnati Children’s are actively pursuing new imaging methods using advanced MRI technology such as functional MRI and tractography to detect more mild injury to the brain, which can occur with concussions sustained during sports and other recreational activities.
It is our hope that more advanced imaging techniques will lead to a better understanding of brain injury, which will lead to more effective prevention and treatment of these injuries.
Written by Dr. Luke Linscott and edited by Tony Dandino (RT).