Diffusion-weighted MRI in diffuse axonal injury of the brain

Eur Radiol. 2002 Oct;12(10):2536-41. doi: 10.1007/s00330-002-1333-2. Epub 2002 Apr 30.


The goal of this study was to identify and describe the different types and patterns of tissue injury which are encountered by diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) in diffuse axonal injury (DAI) of the brain. The DWI data sets of 98 patients who suffered from a closed-head injury were retrospectively evaluated. Medical records were reviewed to rule out pre-existing neurological diseases. Lesions were studied for their DWI signal characteristics and lesion size or extension. Traumatic lesions were classified into three categories depending on their signal characteristica on DWI and apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) maps: type 1, DWI- and ADC-hyperintense most likely representing lesions with vasogenic edema; type 2, DWI-hyperintense, ADC-hypointense indicating cytotoxic edema; type 3, central hemorrhagic lesion surrounded by an area of increased diffusion. According to the size and extent of lesions, injury was classified into three groups: group A, focal injury; group B, regional/confluent injury; and group C, extensive/diffuse injury. Our study showed that diffusion-weighted imaging differentiates between lesions with decreased and increased diffusion in patients with DAI. Different degrees of tissue injury extent were noticed. Future prospective studies should study if this additional information can be used as a predictor of injury reversibility, final outcome and prognosis.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain Injuries / diagnosis
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diffuse Axonal Injury / diagnosis*
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies