One Year Later, the Brain Can Still Hurt

Traumatic brain injury symptoms can continue one year after injury

(RxWiki News) One major hit to the head is all it takes. Trouble focusing, headaches, lightheadedness and other symptoms can stick around with patients who have a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI).

Individuals who suffer a TBI from a single hit can still feel the effects a year later, according to a recently published study.

Though some severe head injuries cannot be fully mended, researchers advised not to apply the findings to a particular individual but continue to treat patients on a case-by-case basis.

"Concussions need an MD evaluation."

Xongxia Zhou, PhD, from the Department of Radiology at New York University School of Medicine led the study investigating changes in brain volume among patients who had a single mild traumatic brain injury.

The study included 28 patients with severe head injuries who were treated between June 2005 and September 2012. The injuries occurred at least a year before.

Researchers also included 22 individuals who did not have a brain injury. All participants had images of the gray matter and white matter of their brains taken using three-dimensional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Gray matter is the part of the brain that is made up of neurons, brain cells that think and act. White matter is made up of brain cells that help transmit messages between different parts of the brain.

After taking images of the brain, researchers measured patients' ability to process information, attention to words verbal, concentration and working memory. They also tested their visual speed and attention capability.

Researchers found the brains in MTBI patients were smaller than those of the non-injured patients. Both white and gray matter had significantly less volume among the injured patients.

Shrunken areas included parts of the brain that control memory and attention. Another shrunken area caused anxiety levels and concussion symptoms to increase.

"These observations demonstrate structural changes to the brain one year after injury after a single concussive episode," researchers wrote in their report.

"Regional brain atrophy is not exclusive to moderate and severe traumatic brain injury but may be seen after mild injury."

The authors noted they did not follow up with participants and they may have worked with more symptomatic patients.

Additionally, few participants were included in the study.

Researchers said their study is the largest report on brain volume changes among patients with MTBI.

Future research should investigate the full effect a major traumatic brain injury has on an individual and include a larger number of subjects over a longer period of time, researchers said.

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, was published online March 12 in the journal Radiology, by the Radiological Society of North America. None of the authors declared any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
March 15, 2013