Purpose: To examine acute alterations in white matter (WM) diffusion based on diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) in youth with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) relative to orthopedic injury (OI) controls.
Methods: A prospective cohort study of 23 patients with mTBI and 20 OI controls ages 11-16 years were recruited from the emergency department (ED). DTI was performed within 96 hours. Voxel based analysis quantified group differences for DTI indices: fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), axial diffusivity (AD), and radial diffusivity (RD). The Post Concussion Symptom Scale assessed symptom burden.
Results: Youth with mTBI had significantly higher symptom burdens in the ED and at scanning than controls. The mTBI group had significantly higher levels of FA and AD in several WM regions including the middle temporal gyrus WM, superior temporal gyrus WM, anterior corona radiata, and superior longitudinal fasciculus. The mTBI group had significantly lower levels of MD and/or RD in a few WM regions including the middle frontal gyrus WM and anterior corona radiata. Diffusion alterations correlated poorly with acute symptom burden.
Conclusions: Alterations of diffusivity were detected in spatially heterogeneous WM regions shortly after mTBI in youth. The pattern of alterations may reflect restrictive water diffusion in WM early post-injury.
Keywords: Mild traumatic brain injury; acute; child; diffusion tensor imaging.