The pathological spectrum of diffuse axonal injury in blunt head trauma: assessment with axon and myelin strains

Clin Neurol Neurosurg. 1994 Feb;96(1):24-31. doi: 10.1016/0303-8467(94)90025-6.


Although diffuse axonal injury (DAI) has been described as a major form of primary damage to the brain in blunt head injury, there has been no systematic study of the pathological changes in different regions of the brain. In this study, 22 cases of DAI were comprehensively examined histologically in the following areas: corpus callosum, internal capsule, superior cerebellar peduncles, cerebral white matter, fornix, rostral brain stem and globus pallidus, with a total of 17 standard blocks in each case. Sections were stained for axons with Glees and Marsland and neurofilament immunostaining and myelin with luxol fast blue and myelin basic protein immunostaining, and axonal retraction balls and myelin globoids were counted. Neurofilament immunostaining was superior to Glees and Marsland in both the positivity rates and the actual scores. Small myelin globoids were identified by the myelin stains, probably as a form of myelin damage secondary to axonal disruption. Such acute myelin damage was previously undescribed. There was no significant difference in both positivity rates and the scores obtained for luxol fast blue and myelin basic protein. Of all the regions of the brain examined, the internal capsule, corpus callosum and superior cerebellar peduncles yielded the highest counts of axonal balls as well as the highest incidences. It is recommended that in cases of DAI, these three regions of the brain should be examined most profitably with neurofilament immunostaining supplemented with a myelin stain.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Axons / pathology*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / pathology*
  • Brain Death / pathology
  • Brain Injuries / pathology*
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / pathology
  • Child
  • Female
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Head Injuries, Closed / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Degeneration / physiology
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / pathology*