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Mild brain injuries can cause long lasting damage

People who are involved in minor fender benders or catastrophic collisions run the risk of receiving a traumatic brain injury. A sudden jolt to the head can cause whiplash, where the soft tissue of the brain hits against the hard interior of the skull. The resulting brain damage can range in severity, from mild to severe, depending on the force of impact, as well as what area of the brain was injured. Traditionally, more attention was paid to patients who suffered moderate to severe brain injuries, as this damage was thought to have more long-term effects. Research shows, however, that people who have mild brain injuries may suffer from long-term cognitive damage as well.

In the past, the screening tests used to identify traumatic brain injuries focused on areas of severe damage and were unable to pick up trauma in the white brain matter. Researchers have found that using diffusion tensor imaging in patients with reported TBI can pick up images of damaged white matter cells. These cells, which are crucial cognitive components of the brain’s ability to remember, speak and understand language, will show up dark on a DTI screening test when they are damaged. Researchers studied a sample of patients with mild TBI by looking at their DTI results immediately following the accidents, and then at a one-year follow up. While some people showed improvement in their white brain cells at the one-year follow up, others still had significant damage. This may indicate long-term trauma.

Diffusion Tensor imaging allows physicians to diagnose mild TBI sooner, and give people immediate treatment as a way to maximize their chances of a full recovery. 

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