Background and purpose: Cognitive impairment is frequent among patients with mild traumatic brain injury despite the absence of detectable damage on conventional MR imaging. In this study, the quantitative MR imaging techniques DTI, DKI, and ASL were used to measure changes in the structure and function in the thalamus and WM of patients with MTBI during a short follow-up period, to determine whether these techniques can be used to investigate relationships with cognitive performance and to predict outcome.
Materials and methods: Twenty patients with MTBI and 16 controls underwent MR imaging at 3T and a neuropsychological battery designed to yield measures for attention, concentration, executive functioning, memory, learning, and information processing. MK, FA, MD, and CBF were measured in the thalamus by using region-of-interest analysis and in WM by using tract-based spatial statistics. Analyses were performed comparing regional imaging measures of subject groups and the results of testing of their associations with neuropsychological performance.
Results: Patients with MTBI exhibited significant differences from controls for DTI, DKI, and ASL measures in the thalamus and various WM regions both within 1 month after injury and >9 months after injury. At baseline, DTI and DKI measures in the thalamus and various WM regions were significantly associated with performance in different neuropsychological domains, and cognitive impairment was significantly associated with MK in the thalamus and FA in optic radiations.
Conclusions: Combined application of DTI, DKI, and ASL to study MTBI might be useful for investigating dynamic changes in the thalamus and WM as well as cognitive impairment during a short follow-up period, though the small number of patients examined did not predict outcome.