With 2.1 million injuries and 50,000 deaths annually in the United States, traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of death in people under the age of 35. The reason for this is the challenge of obtaining a prompt and accurate diagnosis. The existing clinical imaging methods for detecting TBI are CT scans or  MRI. These are usually confined to a hospital setting and provide information concerning gross changes to brain structure. Although emerging methods using functional and diffusion MRI have shown promise in improving capabilities to detect TBI, the is a clear disconnect between changes known to occur in TBI and those which clinicians are able to detect with imaging.

In order to tackle these issues, two researchers at the University of Virginia Health System, in partnership with federal laboratories and supported by a $6 million Department of Defense grant, are exploring two new potential imaging approaches to improve the diagnosis. The first project is a handheld ultra-sound system capable of measuring tissue stiffness and builds on previous research which examined the viscoelastic properties of injured tissue. Previously Dr. James Stone, assistant professor of radiology and medical imaging and the University of Virginia School of Medicine, and his colleagues demonstrated measurable changes in tissue stiffness after TBI. It is known that tissues can be disrupted after a TBI, and this study showed that it occurs in a physically measurable fashion. The second project, which launched last year, involves the development of PET probes for improved diagnosis of TBI where advanced imaging is available. Stone and his colleagues are focusing on probes that will assess hypoxia, inflammation, neutrophil infiltration, apoptosis and necrosis to determine if it may help in the diagnosis of TBI.

Although the Department of Defense grant emphasized a battlefield ready system, researchers hope that the technology can be used by emergency personnel too. It would help them on the sidelines of a sporting event, the most common places for mild TBI to occur, to be able to inform a player that sustained a blow to the head whether the injury requires immediate follow-up. If the research team is able to successfully develop the new diagnostic techniques, they could help physicians better diagnose TBI. Improved diagnosis could then equip doctors with better tools to optimize the management of the injury and refine the prognosis.

This research is leading the way to a better diagnosis of traumatic brain injuries. With better imaging and more advanced technology, traumatic brain injuries can be treated more effectively and efficiently.

If you are in need of a Myrtle Beach SC traumatic brain injury attorney, Conway personal injury lawyer Dirk Derrick at the The Derrick Law Firm has been handling traumatic brain injury cases in South Carolina since 1991. Please call 843-248-7486 today for your free consultation.

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