Neuroimaging in Pediatric Patients with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: Relating the Current 2018 Centers for Disease Control Guideline and the Potential of Advanced Neuroimaging Modalities for Research and Clinical Biomarker Development

J Neurotrauma. 2021 Jan 1;38(1):44-52. doi: 10.1089/neu.2020.7100. Epub 2020 Oct 21.


The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s 2018 Guideline for current practices in pediatric mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI; also referred to as concussion herein) systematically identified the best up-to-date practices based on current evidence and, specifically, identified recommended practices regarding computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and skull radiograph imaging. In this article, we discuss types of neuroimaging not discussed in the guideline in terms of their safety for pediatric populations, their potential application, and the research investigating the future use of certain modalities to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of mTBI in children. The role of neuroimaging in pediatric mTBI cases should be considered for the potential contribution to children's neural and social development, in addition to the immediate clinical value (as in the case of acute structural findings). Selective use of specific neuroimaging modalities in research has already been shown to detect aspects of diffuse brain injury, disrupted cerebral blood flow, and correlate physiological factors with persistent symptoms, such as fatigue, cognitive decline, headache, and mood changes, following mTBI. However, these advanced neuroimaging modalities are currently limited to the research arena, and any future clinical application of advanced imaging modalities in pediatric mTBI will require robust evidence for each modality's ability to provide measurement of the subtle conditions of brain development, disease, damage, or degeneration, while accounting for variables at both non-injury and time-post-injury epochs. Continued collaboration and communication between researchers and healthcare providers is essential to investigate, develop, and validate the potential of advanced imaging modalities in pediatric mTBI diagnostics and management.

Keywords: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; arterial spin labeling; computed tomography; concussion; diffusion tensor imaging; diffusion-weighted imaging; functional magnetic resonance imaging; magnetic resonance spectroscopy imaging; mild traumatic brain injury; positron emission tomography; single-photon emission computerized tomography.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't