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Advanced imaging predicts child concussion recovery

New approach could lead to better management of recovery after mild traumatic brain injury

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Advanced imaging has been used to predict the recovery of children after mild traumatic brain injury. 

New research used Neurite Orientation Dispersion and Density Imaging (NODDI) technology, and found its predictions on recovery scored an 87 per cent success rate. 

And the breakthrough in the use of the new imaging approach could now lead to advances in concussion management.

“NODDI provides more detailed information on structural damage in the brain than traditional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measurements,” said Athena Stein, from the University of Queensland.

“Our study was the first to use this NODDI to investigate the changes in those networks over time in children with mild traumatic brain injury.

“We found that at one month post injury, it could predict what recovery would look like two to three months later, giving doctors more information to guide treatment and management.”

Mild traumatic brain injury includes concussion, and can cause headaches, difficulty sleeping and/or problems with attention and memory for several months.

“We investigated changes in the brain over the three months following injury in 80 children who had ongoing injury-related symptoms,” Ms Stein said.

“We also tested 32 children who had already recovered from injury and compared the results to 21 healthy control children.

“The children with ongoing symptoms following mild TBI had significantly lower structural integrity and more microstructural damage in their brain networks compared to the healthy controls.”

The researchers have hailed the findings as being potentially significant in the management of concussion and mild traumatic brain injury going forward. 

“These findings will advance the clinical management of mild TBI by providing a means to predict recovery,” said Ms Stein. 

“Additionally, the evidence of ongoing structural brain changes in the months following injury supports delaying a child’s return to sport.”

The researchers, from the University of Queensland’s Child Health Research Centre and Queensland Brain Institute, said that further study will be needed to understand why some children recover quickly from a TBI, while others take longer, or never fully recover.

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