In a study published November 18, 2013 in Frontiers in Neurology, researchers from Penn and Baylor report that they have identified a blood biomarker – SNTF – that if found on the day of injury predicts with substantial accuracy both cognitive impairment persisting more than 3 months and the existence of abnormal brain imaging finding in the corpus callosum and uncinate fasciculus of the brain (using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). Read More
There has been much debate over what happens to the brain following a concussion, much of it recently focused on concussions in sports. One side of the debate maintains that concussions, also referred to as “mild traumatic brain injuries,” involve only a very short term disruption of brain function with no damage to the brain. As discussed in previous posts, this view has been discounted by a growing body of research involving advanced imaging technologies as well as post-mortem pathological studies showing that in a minority of cases concussions can cause lasting damage to the brain as well as persistent symptoms.
One of the causes of the failure of clinical trials to successfully treat TBI, the authors contend, is the common classification of TBIs as “mild, moderate or severe.” These classifications do not incorporate newer insights and findings from diagnostic tools such as imaging and biomarkers and therefore do not promote “mechanistic targeting” for clinical trials. The authors support the transition to a more nuanced approach, a precise disease classification model that is based on the precise pathoanatomical and molecular features of the injury. Read More
Defense attorneys often cite “meta-analytic” reviews of neurological studies to make the argument that “mild” traumatic brain injuries (mTBIs) cause no lasting effect beyond three months post-injury. A “meta-analysis” involves a statistical study of multiple studies published in the literature.
Meta-analyses in mTBI are often used to show that persistent symptoms are “neurotic” rather than “organic”
Fortunately, it is generally agreed that the majority of people who suffer mTBIs, sometimes referred to as “concussions”, report full recovery from symptoms within three months of the injury – in fact many recover much faster. A great deal of research over the past few years has focused on the minority of people who do not fully recover within three months, described as having a “persistent post-concussion symptoms (PCS).” These patients are sometimes referred to as the “miserable minority.” The “meta-analyses” are often cited as demonstrating that changes in performance after three months have “limited statistical and clinical significance;” in other words, that persistent symptoms must be psychological or “neurotic” rather than “organic” or neurologic. Read More
Two recent peer reviewed papers support the position statement adopted by the Brain Injury Association in 2009 that “Brain Injury” be treated not as static event from which patients gradually recover over time, but as the beginning of a disease process that that can cause symptoms that change over time, in some cases getting worse instead of better, and that can impact multiple organ systems.
The good news is that most people do, in fact, recover. For those who do not, however, the disease model is more consistent with the evolving research. As McCrea, Iverson, McAllister, et. al. noted in their 2009 Integrated Review of Recovery after Mild Traumatic Brain Injury, brain injury science has advanced more in the last few years than in the previous 50, causing us to change the paradigms we have used to understand both the injury and its consequences. Read More
In July, 2013 the Defense Centers of Excellence, serving the United States Department of Defense, issued important new guidelines for neuroimaging following “mild” traumatic brain injury. The guidelines begin with the well-accepted understanding that neuroimaging is not typically included in the diagnosis of mild traumatic brain injury(“mTBI”) because only 10-15% of people who sustain trauma resulting in mTBI will have an acute brain lesion on CT (computed tomography) scans. “The lack of positive imaging findings,” the guidelines emphasize, “does not invalidate a diagnosis of mTBI.”
What is significant about the guidelines is that they recommend imaging in mTBI cases where the victim has “new, persistent or worsening symptoms” 90 days or more following the injury (described as the “chronic stage.”) Read More
Oscar-nominee Lucy Walker’s captivating new HBO documentary film about Vermont snowboarder Kevin Pearce provides extraordinary insight into the impact of a traumatic brain injury on both the victim of the injury – in this case an Olympic gold medal contender – and his family. The film, which recently premiered on HBO, will most certainly have a profound impact since it is both thrilling and entertaining – and therefore likely to be watched by many – and at the same time provides important, often misunderstood, information about the long-term physical and emotional impacts of the injury as well as the secret to finding a fulfilling life following a traumatic brain injury. Read More
On June 28, 2013 a Chittenden County Vermont jury returned a $43.1 million dollar verdict in favor Dzemila Heco, a 51 year old woman who suffered a C4-C5 spinal cord injury when her 1999 Dodge Neon was struck from behind at 35 miles per hour by another car while waiting at a red light. Read More
A recent study published in Neurology found a link between traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and ischemic strokes. Ischemic strokes, a category which accounts for 87 percent of all stroke cases as per the American Stroke Association, are those which are caused by blood clots or other obstructions in the blood vessels which connect to the brain. Read More
Concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), typically produces no gross pathology, such as hemorrhage or abnormalities, that can be seen on conventional CT scans of the brain. It does cause rapid-onset neurophysiological and neurological dysfunction that in most patients resolves spontaneously over a fairly short period of time. Studies have shown, however, that approximately 15% of individuals with mild TBI develop persistent cognitive dysfunction and other symptoms. Researchers are starting to make progress on proving mild traumatic brain injury using the biomarkers that underlie such symptoms. Read More