Concussions (Mild Traumatic Brain Injury or mTBI) have long been a mysterious and worrying injury for doctors to examine. Concussion symptoms can range anywhere from unconsciousness to memory loss to a slight headache. There is such a range of symptoms that it can be a difficult task for physicians to medically diagnose a concussion.
Most head injuries are minor — bumps, headaches or the occasional fall. These types of injuries happen with few repercussions. When they’re not, though, they can lead to serious short-term and long-term problems, including dizziness, headache, memory loss and slurred speech, to name a few.
Sometimes concussions are immediately apparent. Other times, the symptoms are not as obvious. Here are a few signs you should look for in a concussion:
- Sensitivity to light or noise
- Loss of memory
- Not thinking clearly
- Slow reaction time
- Lack of concentration
- Blurred vision
- Nausea or vomiting
- Feeling tired or lacking energy
- Increased sadness
- More emotional
- Change in sleep patterns
- A stunned or shocked feeling
- Not feeling “right”
If you think you might have a concussion, it is crucial that you contact a professional as quickly as possible. This is far easier said than done, though. The signs and symptoms of a concussion can be subtle and may not be immediately apparent. Some symptoms may last for days, or even longer.
Many concussion symptoms may occur without a concussion, which means they can be especially difficult to diagnose. If you have several of these symptoms, though, you should contact a physician immediately. Even if immediate attention isn’t needed, having a concussion without proper medical attention can lead to long-term problems.
How Concussions Happen
In layman’s terms, a concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that is caused by a blow to the head or body. This can come from a fall, a hit or any other injury that violently shakes the brain inside of the skull.
Basically, your brain is surrounded by spinal fluid and protected by your skull. The fluid normally acts as a cushion, but when your head gets hit too hard, the brain can crash into the skull and get injured. This typically results in a concussion.
Concussions are unusual for most people but for athletes, some workers, and extreme sports enthusiasts, concussions are more common. The problem with this is that as more research is being done on the long-term effects of concussions on professional athletes, we are learning that these bumps on the noggin can have a much deeper consequence.
DTI Exams Measure Brain Injuries Unseen on Other Exams
Any kind of traumatic brain injury is cause for concern but now Doctors Imaging has a beneficial new technology that can help determine the extent of brain injury and nerve damage due to a concussion. It’s called Diffusion Tensor Imaging or DTI.
Doctors Imaging was the first to introduce New Orleans to a 3.0T MRI and we added Diffusion Tensor Imaging to our services in 2016. Where standard MRIs are well-equipped to obtain useful and comprehensive images of brain tissue, DTI is an advanced form of MRI technology that improves diagnostic practices, particularly in the diagnosis of and recovery from concussions.
Most MRIs can tell if there is tissue damage or bleeding, but DTI exams measure whether there is nerve damage in specific areas of the brain’s white matter. Along with internal bleeding, nerve damage is the primary concern for physicians when dealing with a concussed patient. If you were to look at the health histories of former football players or boxers, you would notice that they have a higher prevalence of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS (Lou Gherig’s Disease) and other neurological disorders as they age. Many people believe the increased incidence of these diseases in these athletes comes from repeated exposure to head and back trauma.
DTI exams are able to focus on the connecting circuits of the brain and localize nerve damage. By recognizing this nerve damage, doctors can keep a close eye on their patients and help them during the recovery from their injury.
One factor that most doctors are very concerned about when they are seeing a concussion patient is an axonal injury. An axonal injury happens when a brain injury causes extensive lesions in the white matter tracts in a widespread or localized area. Diffuse axonal injury (DAI) is so worrying because it can be indicative of long-term brain deficiency. DAI occurs in almost half of all concussion cases. And now with a DTI exam, doctors will be able to make diagnoses and recoveries easier and more beneficial.
As with MRI exams, DTI exams do not use radiation. It is a non-invasive exam and has extremely high success rates.