Virginia Researchers Explore New Ways to Diagnose Traumatic Brain Injury

By: Allan M. Siegel

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Concussions are particularly concerning injuries because they are often unpredictable in nature and can have such a profound impact on the lives of victims. The fact that concussions are difficult to diagnose has also created many problems for doctors and patients. A new study being conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia, however, is hoping to find ways to better identify concussions.

Why Current Methods for Diagnosing Concussions Fall Short

Current methods and tools for diagnosing concussions have been said to fall short. CT andMRI scans, for instance, are not able to see most of the changes in the brain after a concussion. These imaging tests may be able to identify bruising and tears, but they are unable to identify changes in the brain at a cellular and molecular level. Patients with a concussion will almost always have negative CT and MRI scans.

As a result, doctors are forced to rely on what patients have to say about their symptoms. When an athlete fears that he or she may be removed from their sport for accurately describing adverse sym

ptoms, they often minimize them or decline to speak truthfully about what they are experiencing.

Identifying Traumatic Brain Injuries at the Microscopic Level

University of Virginia researchers are exploring a new method to identify TBI. Using a tactic commonly used to diagnose lung infections, researchers are finding that TBI can potentially be diagnosed – more accurately than with current methods – by using positron emission tomography (PET) scans to chart the body's immune response to a brain injury. The study – which is being funded by the U.S. Defense Health Program – addresses the fact that current imaging tests are unable to view the brain at a microscopic level, where molecular and cellular changes can potentially alert a physician to TBI.

In order to see these changes, researchers use compounds attached to white blood cells to monitor the body's immune response to injury. When this compound – which functions like a tracer – travels to the injured area of the brain, it may be an indication that the body's immune system is attempting to repair damages. Physicians will be able to see the tracers and can potentially identify TBI on a PET scan.

The results of the study have been reassuring and will hopefully lead to new, effective methods for diagnosing TBI. For more information about traumatic brain injuries and concussions, or to discuss your brain injury case, contact a Northern Virginia brain injury lawyer from Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C.