DTI (Quantitative), a new and advanced MRI procedure for evaluation of Concussions

What is Quantitative DTI?

Quantitative DTI, or Diffusion Tensor Imaging, is an objective and particularly effective method for detecting nerve damage in the brain caused by concussions (mild Traumatic Brain Injury or mTBI).

How does Quantitative DTI Work?

Quantitative DTI measures water molecules as they move along the brains nerve pathways. In the brain, nerve cells are called “axons” and water moves in a specific direction along these pathways. Diffusion Tensor Imaging is a method in which we can watch how water moves along the nerves or what is called FA or fractional anisotropy. If a disruption in the water pathway is detected, we know that there is an injury or damage in that specific area of the brain.


The only way that Quantitative DTI testing can be performed is to have a powerful 3.0T MRI system with specific advanced neurological software and data processing capabilities. Most facilities in the greater New Orleans area offer only 1.5T MRIs. By using this powerful 3.0T MRI machine, with the necessary software and professional expertise, radiologists segment brain DTI scans into 64 different angles to examine the white matter of the brain looking for nerve damage.

How Can Quantitative DTI Help Diagnose a Concussion?

Two Causes of Concussions are Head-Related Injuries from Sports and Car AccidentsThe skull usually does a good job of protecting your brain. When you experience an mTBI (mild traumatic brain injury) the FA in the brain’s white matter may be low. Low FA is an abnormality and indicates an injury to the nerve cells.

What is a Concussion?

Concussion comes from the Latin word concutere meaning “to shake violently.” In essence an mTBI or concussion is when the brain experiences an injury significant enough to cause some of the following problems:

  • A stunned or shocked feeling
  • Loss of memory
  • Amnesia surrounding the particulars of the injury
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Seizures
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Not feeling “right”

About 70% of concussion patients feel improved or “normal” about 2 weeks after the injury. However, some individuals continue to experience problems that can affect them with their ability to perform daily tasks at home, work or at school. In cases of mild traumatic brain injury or mTBI, routine MRI or CT Scans usually appear normal, but Quantitative DTI allows us to see the microscopic brain injuries that previously were undetectable

Are DTI Tractography and Quantitative DTI the same?

CN5 Ophthalmic and CN5 Maxillary Mandibular in the Brain

Tractography creates beautiful images of the brain’s white matter pathways and this technology is of critical importance to neurosurgeons when they evaluate for tumor surgery. However tractography is of no value when we look for objective evidence of the microscopic nerve damage resulting from concussion. Concussion diagnosis requires the use of quantitative DTI.

Looking for more information on Quantitative DTI?

The video at the top of this page, a short presentation by Doctors Imagings’ Concussion Program Director, Dr. Edward Soll, provides an explanation of Quantitative DTI and how modern neuroscience has embraced its use in the evaluation of concussion injuries.
Thanks to Quantitative DTI radiologists have been able to locate microscopic areas in the brain where injury has occurred. In previous years, the unseen injuries of concussions remained a mystery to physicians, now they are clear and colorful and will provide insight for doctors to treat brain injuries.

If you have concerns regarding a concussion injury or wish to schedule an appointment for a Quantitative DTI at Doctors Imaging, just call 504-883-8111 or fill out the Book Appointment Request at the side of this page.