Extended Analysis of Axonal Injuries Detected Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Critically Ill Traumatic Brain Injury Patients

J Neurotrauma. 2022 Jan;39(1-2):58-66. doi: 10.1089/neu.2021.0159.


Studies show conflicting results regarding the prognostic significance of traumatic axonal injuries (TAI) in patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI). Therefore, we documented the presence of TAI in several brain regions, using different magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) sequences, and assessed their association to patient outcomes using machine learning. Further, we created a novel MRI-based TAI grading system with the goal of improving outcome prediction in TBI. We subsequently evaluated the performance of several TAI grading systems. We used a genetic algorithm to identify TAI that distinguish favorable from unfavorable outcomes. We assessed the discriminatory performance (area under the curve [AUC]) and goodness-of-fit (Nagelkerke pseudo-R2) of the novel Stockholm MRI grading system and the TAI grading systems of Adams and associates, Firsching and coworkers. and Abu Hamdeh and colleagues, using both univariate and multi-variate logistic regression. The dichotomized Glasgow Outcome Scale was considered the primary outcome. We examined the MRI scans of 351 critically ill patients with TBI. The TAI in several brain regions, such as the midbrain tegmentum, were strongly associated with unfavorable outcomes. The Stockholm MRI grading system exhibited the highest AUC (0.72 vs. 0.68-0.69) and Nagelkerke pseudo-R2 (0.21 vs. 0.14-0.15) values of all TAI grading systems. These differences in model performance, however, were not statistically significant (DeLong test, p > 0.05). Further, all included TAI grading systems improved outcome prediction relative to established outcome predictors of TBI, such as the Glasgow Coma Scale (likelihood-ratio test, p < 0.001). Our findings suggest that the detection of TAI using MRI is a valuable addition to prognostication in TBI.

Keywords: diffuse axonal injury; machine learning; magnetic resonance imaging; traumatic axonal injury; traumatic brain injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic* / diagnostic imaging
  • Critical Illness
  • Diffuse Axonal Injury* / diagnostic imaging
  • Diffuse Axonal Injury* / pathology
  • Glasgow Outcome Scale
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Prognosis