ScienceDaily (June 2, 2011) — An advanced imaging technique has revealed that some U.S. military personnel with mild blast-related traumatic brain injuries have abnormalities in the brain that have not been seen with other types of imaging.
The abnormalities were found in the brain's white matter, the wiring system that nerve cells in the brain use to communicate with each other.
The study is reported June 2 in The New England Journal of Medicine by scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany.
They evaluated 84 U.S. military personnel evacuated to Landstuhl from Iraq and Afghanistan after exposure to many types of explosive blasts. Abnormalities were found in 18 of 63 patients diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury, but not among 21 injured in other ways.
Traumatic brain injuries are estimated to have affected as many as 320,000 military personnel in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of these are classified as mild traumatic brain injuries, also known as concussions.
"We call these injuries 'mild', but in reality they sometimes can have serious consequences," says senior author David L. Brody, MD, PhD, assistant professor of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
In the new study, white matter abnormalities were detected using an advanced magnetic resonance imaging method called diffusion tensor imaging. Diffusion tensor imaging allows scientists to assess the movement of water in tissue. Changes in the patterns of water movement are often linked to injury or disease, but the significance of the abnormalities seen in the military service personnel is not yet fully understood.
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