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Free access

Hans Kristian Moe, Janne Limandvik Myhr, Kent Gøran Moen, Asta Kristine Håberg, Toril Skandsen, and Anne Vik

OBJECTIVE

The authors investigated the association between the cause of injury and the occurrence and grade of traumatic axonal injury (TAI) on clinical MRI in patients with moderate or severe traumatic brain injury (TBI).

METHODS

Data for a total of 396 consecutive patients, aged 7–70 years, with moderate or severe TBI admitted to a level 1 trauma center were prospectively registered. Data were included for analysis from the 219 patients who had MRI performed within 35 days (median 8, IQR 4–17 days) and for whom cause of injury was known. Cause of injury was registered as road traffic accident (RTA) or fall (both with respective subcategories), alpine skiing or snowboarding accident, or violence. The MRI protocol consisted of T2*-weighted gradient echo, FLAIR, and diffusion-weighted imaging scans. TAI lesions were evaluated in a blinded manner and categorized into 3 grades, hemispheric/cerebellar white matter (grade 1), corpus callosum (grade 2), and brainstem (grade 3). The absence of TAI was analyzed as grade 0. Contusions and mass lesions on CT were also registered.

RESULTS

Cause of injury did not differ between included and nonincluded patients. TAI was found in 83% of patients in the included group after RTAs and 62% after falls (p < 0.001). Observed TAI grades differed between the subcategories of both RTAs (p = 0.004) and falls (p = 0.006). Pedestrians in RTAs, car drivers/passengers in RTAs, and alpine skiers had the highest prevalence of TAI (89%–100%) and the highest TAI grades (70%–82% TAI grades 2–3). TAI was found in 76% of patients after falls from > own height (45% TAI grade 2–3), 63% after falls down the stairs (26% TAI grade 2–3), and 31% after falls from ≤ own height (12% TAI grade 2–3). Moreover, 53% of patients with TAI after RTAs and 68% with TAI after falls had cortical contusions or mass lesions on CT.

CONCLUSIONS

This prospective study of moderate and severe TBI is to the authors’ knowledge the first clinical MRI study to demonstrate both the high prevalence and grade of TAI after most of the different types of RTAs, alpine skiing accidents, and falls from a height. Importantly, TAI was also common following more low-energy trauma such as falls down the stairs or from own height. Physicians managing TBI patients in the acute phase should be aware of the possibility of TAI no matter the cause of injury and also when the CT scan shows cortical contusions or mass lesions.

Open access

Hans Kristian Moe, Turid Follestad, Nada Andelic, Asta Kristine Håberg, Anne-Mari Holte Flusund, Kjell Arne Kvistad, Elin Hildrum Saksvoll, Øystein Olsen, Sebastian Abel-Grüner, Oddrun Sandrød, Toril Skandsen, Anne Vik, and Kent Gøran Moen

OBJECTIVE

The aim in this study was to investigate if MRI findings of traumatic axonal injury (TAI) after traumatic brain injury (TBI) are related to the admission Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score and prolonged duration of posttraumatic amnesia (PTA).

METHODS

A total of 490 patients with mild to severe TBI underwent brain MRI within 6 weeks of injury (mild TBI: median 2 days; moderate to severe TBI: median 8 days). The location of TAI lesions and measures of total TAI lesion burden (number and volume of lesions on FLAIR and diffusion-weighted imaging and number of lesions on T2*-weighted gradient echo or susceptibility-weighted imaging) were quantified in a blinded manner for clinical information. The volume of contusions on FLAIR was likewise recorded. Associations between GCS score and the location and burden of TAI lesions were examined with multiple linear regression, adjusted for age, Marshall CT score (which includes compression of basal cisterns, midline shift, and mass lesions), and alcohol intoxication. The predictive value of TAI lesion location and burden for duration of PTA > 28 days was analyzed with multiple logistic regression, adjusted for age and Marshall CT score. Complete-case analyses of patients with TAI were used for the regression analyses of GCS scores (n = 268) and PTA (n = 252).

RESULTS

TAI lesions were observed in 58% of patients: in 7% of mild, 69% of moderate, and 93% of severe TBI cases. The TAI lesion location associated with the lowest GCS scores were bilateral lesions in the brainstem (mean difference in GCS score −2.5), followed by lesions bilaterally in the thalamus, unilaterally in the brainstem, and lesions in the splenium. The volume of TAI on FLAIR was the measure of total lesion burden most strongly associated with the GCS score. Bilateral TAI lesions in the thalamus had the largest predictive value for PTA > 28 days (OR 16.2, 95% CI 3.9–87.4). Of the measures of total TAI lesion burden, the FLAIR volume of TAI predicted PTA > 28 days the best.

CONCLUSIONS

Bilateral TAI lesions in the brainstem and thalamus, as well as the total volume of TAI lesions on FLAIR, had the strongest association with the GCS score and prolonged PTA. The current study proposes a first step toward a modified classification of TAI, with grades ranked according to their relation to these two measures of clinical TBI severity.