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.
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