Study Shows PET Scans Useful in Brain Injury

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September 21, 2019
Edward Smith

Using PET Scans to Detect Brain Injury

A recently published research paper shows that a PET scan can be useful in detecting serious complications of a traumatic brain injury. Even though there has been a lot of research in the field of TBIs, those who suffer serious head injuries are still at a major risk of sustaining complications. Doctors and researchers have been trying to find a way to use imaging to detect those who are at risk of developing brain complications in the future.

A PET scan is a type of imaging modality, similar to MRI scans and CT scans. However, it also shows a different level of detail when compared to these other options. Researchers used PET scans to look at the brains of those who had suffered a traumatic brain injury. Their results, published in Science and Translational Medicine, show that this scan may be useful for predicting complications of a TBI later in life.

The Design of the Research Study

A group of medical researchers recruited about two dozen patients who had been diagnosed with a TBI. These individuals had all presented to their hospital for head injuries sustained in traumatic events such as auto accidents or slip and fall injuries. They ranged in age from late 20s to early 70s and had been diagnosed with either a moderate brain injury or a severe brain injury.

After the patients were evaluated by the researchers, imaging was completed. The researchers also performed a lumbar puncture on the patients to collect samples of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) for further analysis. Then, the researchers analyzed the results of the PET scans to look for signs of complications.

The Results of the PET Scan

During the PET scans, the patients were given a contrast material to highlight pathology throughout the brain of the individual. In this case, the contrast material highlighted areas of tau tangles. About a third of the patients had tau tangles present in different areas throughout their brain.

The white matter in the brain was more damaged than the gray matter. Because the white matter in the brain was damaged, the researchers concluded that these individuals had suffered more damage to the axons in the brain. The more axonal damage that was present, the more the tau tangles were seen. This was a significant finding for the researchers.

Watch YouTube Video: Using PET Scans to Discover the Nuances of Brain Injury. This video explains the different ways a PET scan can be used to image brain injuries.

Why do the Tau Tangles Matter?

The presence of tau tangles could be a sign that these individuals are more susceptible to complications down the road. Tau tangles have been found in the brains of individuals who have been diagnosed with severe forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s Disease. Unfortunately, these tangles have all been identified only after the individual had passed away. The goal of the researchers is to find a way to identify these tangles before patients die. That way, there might be some way to administer treatment to preserve some neurological function.

The Significance of the Study: Future Directions

This study is significant because it gives doctors a tool that they can use to identify those who are at risk of developing complications following a TBI. Because studies have shown that even a single blow to the head can lead to serious complications, medical professionals may need to expand the use of this tool to track individuals who have been diagnosed with a TBI. By looking for tau tangles in patients using a PET scan, doctors may be able to help those who are at risk of developing dementia following a brain injury.

San Francisco Brain Injury Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a San Francisco brain injury lawyer. A PET scan can play an essential role in the diagnosis of a brain injury. If someone you love has been diagnosed with a head or brain injury in a major accident due to the negligence of another person or entity, please contact me at (415) 805-7284 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice.
I’m a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the Top One Percent, a National Association of Distinguished Counsel.

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