The Unseen Damages Of Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic Brain Injury causes a myriad of problems, both directly after the injury, and in the hours and days following. A blow to the head can result in anything from light confusion to death.
While doctors have been able to diagnose head injuries, up until now, they haven’t been able to pinpoint precisely where in the brain the injury is located. Current technology only reveals 5-30% of the damage.
The University of Pittsburgh, who is leading the charge into neurology research, has developed a new technique that allows scientists to see the previously unseen damages of traumatic brain injuries and makes it easier to diagnose the damage.
What is TBI?
TBI is any injury that causes damage to the brain. If something hits the head hard enough, the soft brain hits the hard skull, which causes damage.
The brain sends signals and information using axons, or nerve fibers. In many cases, patients continue to have problems like mood changes, sleeping problems, memory loss, or trouble concentrating, especially with seemingly light injuries.
However, a CT scan cannot see all the axons, and therefore doctors cannot see the damage. Until now, people suffering from invisible brain damage had to learn how to live with a new normal.
It is frustrating for both TBI patients and doctors to know there are problems but not be able to find the source.
Dr. Schneider of the University of Pittsburgh has come up with a solution. At his lab, he and a team of scientists have intensively researched how the brain works, with a specific focus on finding a good way to diagnose TBIs.
Schneider’s team worked on the premise that it should be possible to map the brain and its axons like an X-Ray map of the body and its bones. The result was the development of HDFT, a breakthrough in neurology.
High Definition Fiber Tracking
Scientists are testing out Schneider’s new system, High Definition Fiber Tracking (HDFT). Previous scans could not identify which of the deeply buried nerve fibers were damaged. HDFT changes all of that.
By using diffusion technology, an HDFT scan makes visible these previously invisible axons. The scan lights up the break in the axons, highlighting the problem areas. With the added information, these high definition scans provide, doctors can now more accurately determine how much damage the head injury caused.
Different parts of the brain control various body parts. With HDFT, even if someone is unconscious, doctors can predict what problems the patient will face. They can also confirm whether a patient’s mood swings, confusion, etc., are related to the TBI or have another potential cause.
HDFT opens up many possibilities in neuro-research. In addition to helping doctors diagnose TBI, it can also be applied in general brain study, neurosurgery, and research about neuro-development disorders like autism, and neuro-degeneration, like Alzheimer’s.
Diffusion Tensor Imaging
Another up and coming technology that is revolutionizing the diagnosing of TBI is Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI). Doctors at the Walter Reed National Military Center in Maryland have been experimenting with DTI for several years.
Like HDFT, DTI highlights breaks in the brain. Using the magnetic properties of water, it reveals previously invisible wounds. Dr. French, a leading military expert on DTI, focuses on using DTI to study how a TBI continues to change the brain.
In his study, he tracks both healthy and injured brains and compares their activity. Unlike injuries in other parts of the body, a TBI can continue to damage the brain long after the initial injury. Dr. French is using DTI to see for how long the damage continues and to study the brain’s healing process.
Who Does This Help?
About 1.5-2 million people across the United States suffer from a TBI injury every year. Some professions make your chances of getting a TBI higher.
Football players get hit in the head so often that doctors have begun to refer to concussions as their signature injury. Repeated injuries dramatically increase the possibility of complications, and some football players have even sued the National Football League.
Using HDFT or DTI, doctors can pinpoint exact areas of damage in the brain and begin treatment earlier. Hopefully, this helps mitigate the long-term damage multiple concussions can cause.
Sports are not the only profession where TBIs are common. Over 200,000 American soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have returned home with a TBI. Blasts are a common cause of TBI in soldiers. A strong shockwave acts the same as a hit on the head.
The problem has become so widespread that Congress ordered a military-wide review into the situation.
Car and Bike Crashes
Those Suffering from Other Neurological Diseases
HDFT’s ability to map the brain with such detail gives a boon to specific neurological disease research. Currently, Alzheimer’s has no cure. With HDFT, scientists can study in detail the progression of the disease, which brings them one step closer to a cure.
The brain is still a relatively unexplored part of the human body, but with HDFT and DTI, scientists are rapidly discovering more about it.
Dealing with Long-Term TBI Effects
Dealing with a Traumatic Brain Injury, especially the unseen damages, is a painful and challenging process, made even worse when scans cannot uncover what is causing your problems.
If you or a loved one have a Traumatic Brain Injury and still suffer from side effects that your doctors are unable to diagnose, you might benefit from contacting a personal injury lawyer.
At Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., we care about your continued wellbeing. Senior partner, Eileen Kroll, has years of experience as a registered nurse and can help you understand both the medical and legal aspects of your case.
Call (866) 642-4529 to set up your free consultation today with Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., and learn more about what settlement you might be entitled to.