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What Imaging Techniques are Used to Diagnose Traumatic Brain Injury? What Imaging Techniques Are Used to Diagnose Traumatic Brain Injury?

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For diagnostic purposes, and even for characterization of the extent of the injury, we predominantly rely upon magnetic resonance imaging. This is our standard imaging modality. With an MRI, our standard measures are good at characterizing whether there has been blood, whether there has been a contusion or a bruise to the brain, or whether there is significant damage to axons that actually result in lesions that we characterize in the brain. It's also, of course, very good at tumor, at stroke, at ischemic damage. The advanced applications are really where we're going to see development in brain injury. And these include looking at blood flow and getting blood to regions of the brain--that's called MR perfusion. Or, arterial spin labeling, which is a different technique, which looks at how much blood is taken up into the tissue. But beyond that, there are applications such as MR spectroscopy. So, magnetic resonance spectroscopy is still not a reimbursable type of scan. MR spectroscopy is not an imaging technique. It actually looks at the biochemistry of tissue, so it allows us to look at neuronal integrity or axonal integrity or the amount of pathology that's present.

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Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the standard imaging tool used to diagnose traumatic brain injury, but other tools are being developed to "see" more.

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Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough and Brian King, BrainLine.


Deborah Little, PhDDeborah Little, PhD is an associate professor of Neurology & Rehabilitation, Anatomy & Cell Biology, Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, and Psychology at the University of Illinois.


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