Background and purpose: Routine MR imaging findings are frequently normal following mild traumatic brain injury and have a limited role in diagnosis and management. Advanced MR imaging can assist in detecting pathology and prognostication but is not readily available outside research settings. However, 3D isotropic sequences with ∼1-mm3 voxel size are available on community MR imaging scanners. Using such sequences, we compared radiologists' findings and quantified regional brain volumes between a mild traumatic brain injury cohort and non-brain-injured controls to describe structural imaging findings associated with mild traumatic brain injury.
Materials and methods: Seventy-one military personnel with persistent symptoms and 75 controls underwent 3T MR imaging. Three neuroradiologists interpreted the scans using common data elements. FreeSurfer was used to quantify regional gray and white matter volumes.
Results: WM hyperintensities were seen in 81% of the brain-injured group versus 60% of healthy controls. The odds of ≥1 WM hyperintensity in the brain-injured group was about 3.5 times the odds for healthy controls (95% CI, 1.58-7.72; P = .002) after adjustment for age. A frontal lobe-only distribution of WM hyperintensities was more commonly seen in the mild traumatic brain injury cohort. Furthermore, 7 gray matter, 1 white matter, and 2 subcortical gray matter regions demonstrated decreased volumes in the brain-injured group after multiple-comparison correction. The mild traumatic brain injury cohort showed regional parenchymal volume loss.
Conclusions: White matter findings are nonspecific and therefore a clinical challenge. Our results suggest that prior trauma should be considered in the differential diagnosis of multifocal white matter abnormalities with a clinical history of mild traumatic brain injury, particularly when a frontal predilection is observed.
© 2020 by American Journal of Neuroradiology.