Background: Atrophy of the corpus callosum (CC) is a documented consequence of moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), which has been expressed as volume loss using quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Other advanced imaging modalities such as diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) have also detected white matter microstructural alteration following TBI in the CC. The manner and degree to which macrostructural changes such as volume and microstructural changes develop over time following pediatric TBI, and their relation to a measure of processing speed is the focus of this longitudinal investigation. As such, DTI and volumetric changes in the CC in participants with TBI and a comparison group at approximately 3 and 18 months after injury as well as their relation to processing speed were determined.
Methods: Forty-eight children and adolescents aged 7-17 years who sustained either complicated mild or moderate-to-severe TBI (n = 23) or orthopedic injury (OI; n = 25) were studied. The participants underwent brain MRI and were administered the Eriksen flanker task at both time points.
Results: At 3 months after injury, there were significant group differences in DTI metrics in the total CC and its subregions (genu/anterior, body/central and splenium/posterior), with the TBI group demonstrating significantly lower fractional anisotropy (FA) and a higher apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) in comparison to the OI group. These group differences were also present at 18 months after injury in all CC subregions, with lower FA and a higher ADC in the TBI group. In terms of longitudinal changes in DTI, despite the group difference in mean FA, both groups generally demonstrated a modest increase in FA over time though this increase was only significant in the splenium/posterior subregion. Interestingly, the TBI group also generally demonstrated ADC increases from 3 to 18 months though the OI group demonstrated ADC decreases over time. Volumetrically, the group differences at 3 months were marginal for the midanterior and body/central subregions and total CC. However, by 18 months, the TBI group demonstrated a significantly decreased volume in all subregions except the splenium/posterior area relative to the OI group. Unlike the OI group, which showed a significant volume increase in subregions of the CC over time, the TBI group demonstrated a significant and consistent volume decrease. Performance on a measure of processing speed did not differentiate the groups at either visit, and only the OI group showed significantly improved performance over time. Processing speed was related to FA in the splenium/posterior and total CC only in the TBI group on both occasions, with a stronger relation at 18 months.
Conclusion: In response to TBI, macrostructural volume loss in the CC occurred over time; yet, at the microstructural level, DTI demonstrated both indicators of continued maturation and development even in the damaged CC, as well as evidence of potential degenerative change. Unlike volumetrics, which likely reflects the degree of overall neuronal loss and axonal damage, DTI may reflect some aspects of postinjury maturation and adaptation in white matter following TBI. Multimodality imaging studies may be important to further understand the long-term consequences of pediatric TBI.
Copyright © 2010 S. Karger AG, Basel.