Magnetic resonance imaging-monitored acute blood-brain barrier changes in experimental traumatic brain injury

J Neurosurg. 1996 Dec;85(6):1113-21. doi: 10.3171/jns.1996.85.6.1113.


The authors posit that cellular edema is the major contributor to brain swelling in diffuse head injury and that the contribution of vasogenic edema may be overemphasized. The objective of this study was to determine the early time course of blood-brain barrier (BBB) changes in diffuse closed head injury and to what extent barrier permeability is affected by the secondary insults of hypoxia and hypotension. The BBB disruption was quantified and visualized using T1-weighted magnetic resonance (MR) imaging following intravenous administration of the MR contrast agent gadolinium-diethylenetriamine pentaacetic acid. To avoid the effect of blood volume changes, the maximum signal intensity (SI) enhancement was used to calculate the difference in BBB disruption. A new impact-acceleration model was used to induce closed head injury. Forty-five adult Sprague-Dawley rats were separated into four groups: Group I, sham operated (four animals), Group II, hypoxia and hypotension (four animals), Group III, trauma only (23 animals), and Group IV, trauma coupled with hypoxia and hypotension (14 animals). After trauma was induced, a 30-minute insult of hypoxia (PaO2 40 mm Hg) and hypotension (mean arterial blood pressure 30 mm Hg) was imposed, after which the animals were resuscitated. In the trauma-induced animals, the SI increased dramatically immediately after impact. By 15 minutes permeability decreased exponentially and by 30 minutes it was equal to that of control animals. When trauma was coupled with secondary insult, the SI enhancement was lower after the trauma, consistent with reduced blood pressure and blood flow. However, the SI increased dramatically on reperfusion and was equal to that of control by 60 minutes after the combined insult. In conclusion, the authors suggest that closed head injury is associated with a rapid and transient BBB opening that begins at the time of the trauma and lasts no more than 30 minutes. It has also been shown that addition of posttraumatic secondary insult-hypoxia and hypotension-prolongs the time of BBB breakdown after closed head injury. The authors further conclude that MR imaging is an excellent technique to follow (time resolution 1-1.5 minutes) the evolution of trauma-induced BBB damage noninvasively from as early as a few minutes up to hours or even longer after the trauma occurs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Pressure
  • Blood-Brain Barrier*
  • Brain Edema / pathology
  • Brain Injuries / complications
  • Brain Injuries / pathology*
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology
  • Capillary Permeability
  • Gadolinium DTPA
  • Hypotension / etiology
  • Hypotension / pathology
  • Hypotension / physiopathology
  • Hypoxia / etiology
  • Hypoxia / pathology
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Organometallic Compounds / pharmacokinetics
  • Pentetic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Pentetic Acid / pharmacokinetics
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Pentetic Acid
  • Gadolinium DTPA