Background: Diffuse axonal injury is a common consequence of traumatic brain injury that frequently involves the parasagittal white matter, corpus callosum, and brainstem.
Objective: To examine the potential of diffusion tensor tractography in detecting diffuse axonal injury at the acute stage of injury and predicting long-term functional outcome.
Design: Tract-derived fiber variables were analyzed to distinguish patients from control subjects and to determine their relationship to outcome.
Setting: Inpatient traumatic brain injury unit.
Patients: From 2005 to 2006, magnetic resonance images were acquired in 12 patients approximately 7 days after injury and in 12 age- and sex-matched controls.
Main outcome measures: Six fiber variables of the corpus callosum, fornix, and peduncular projections were obtained. Glasgow Outcome Scale-Extended scores were assessed approximately 9 months after injury in 11 of the 12 patients.
Results: At least 1 fiber variable of each region showed diffuse axonal injury-associated alterations. At least 1 fiber variable of the anterior body and splenium of the corpus callosum correlated significantly with the Glasgow Outcome Scale-Extended scores. The predicted outcome scores correlated significantly with actual scores in a mixed-effects model.
Conclusion: Diffusion tensor tractography-based quantitative analysis at the acute stage of injury has the potential to serve as a valuable biomarker of diffuse axonal injury and predict long-term outcome.