Symptomatic white matter changes in mild traumatic brain injury resemble pathologic features of early Alzheimer dementia

Radiology -


Fakhran, S., K. Yaeger and L. Alhilali.



PURPOSE: To evaluate white matter integrity in patients with mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) who did not have morphologic abnormalities at conventional magnetic resonance (MR) imaging with diffusion-tensor imaging to determine any relationship between patterns of white matter injury and severity of postconcussion symptoms. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The institutional review board approved this study, with waiver of informed consent. Diffusion-tensor images from 64 consecutive patients with mild TBI obtained with conventional MR imaging were evaluated retrospectively. Fractional anisotropy (FA) maps were generated as a measure of white matter integrity. All patients underwent a neurocognitive evaluation. Correlations between skeletonized FA values in white matter, total concussion symptom score, and findings of sleep and wake disturbances were analyzed with regression analysis that used tract-based spatial statistics. RESULTS: Total concussion symptom scores varied from 2 to 97 (mean +/- standard deviation, 32.7 +/- 24.4), with 34 patients demonstrating sleep and wake disturbances. Tract-based spatial statistics showed a significant correlation between high total concussion symptom score and reduced FA at the gray matter-white matter junction (P < .05), most prominently in the auditory cortex (P < .05). FA in the parahippocampal gyri was significantly decreased in patients with sleep and wake disturbances relative to patients without such disturbances (0.26 and 0.37, respectively; P < .05). CONCLUSION: The distribution of white matter abnormalities in patients with symptomatic mild TBI is strikingly similar to the distribution of pathologic abnormalities in patients with early Alzheimer dementia, a finding that may help direct research strategies.

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