Susceptibility-Weighted MRI and Microbleeds in Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: Prediction of Posttraumatic Complaints?

Eur Neurol. 2022;85(3):177-185. doi: 10.1159/000521389. Epub 2022 Jan 17.


Background: Only in 7-15% of patients with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), traumatic CT-abnormalities are found. Nevertheless, 40% of mTBI patients suffer from posttraumatic complaints not resolving after 6 months. We discuss the ability of susceptibility-weighted imaging (SWI), sensitive for microbleeds, to detect more subtle brain abnormalities.

Summary: After a search on PubMed, we selected 15 studies on SWI in adult mTBI patients; 11 studies on 3T MRI, and 4 studies on 1.5T MRI. All 1.5T studies showed that, compared to T2, gradient echo, diffusion-weighted imaging, or fluid-attenuated inversion recovery sequences, SWI is more sensitive for microbleeds. Only two 1.5T studies described the association between SWI findings and outcome. In 3 of the 4 studies, no control group was present. The mean number of microbleeds varied from 3.2 to 6.4 per patient. In the 3T studies, the percentage of patients with traumatic microbleeds varied from 5.7 to 28.8%, compared to 0-13.3% in normal controls. Microbleeds were particularly located subcortical or juxtacortical. The number of microbleeds in mTBI varied from 1 to 10 per patient. mTBI patients with microbleeds appeared to have higher symptom severity at 12 months and perform worse on tests of psychomotor speed and speed of information processing after 3 and 12 months, compared to mTBI patients without microbleeds.

Key messages: There is some evidence that traumatic microbleeds predict cognitive outcome and persistent posttraumatic complaints in patients with mTBI.

Keywords: Microbleeds; Mild traumatic brain injury; Posttraumatic complaints; Susceptibility-weighted MRI; Traumatic axonal injury.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Concussion* / complications
  • Brain Concussion* / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / complications
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods