Increase in apparent diffusion coefficient in normal appearing white matter following human traumatic brain injury correlates with injury severity.
Goetz P., Blamire A., Rajagopalan B., Cadoux-Hudson T., Young D., Styles P.
Following diffuse traumatic brain injury, there may be persistent functional or psychological deficits despite the presence of normal conventional MR images. Previous experimental animal and human studies have shown diffusion abnormalities following focal brain injury. Our aim was to quantify changes in apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) and absolute relaxation times of normal appearing white matter (NAWM) in humans following traumatic brain injury. Twenty-three patients admitted with a diagnosis of head injury (nine mild, eight moderate, and six severe) were scanned an average of 7.6 days after injury using a quantitative echo planar imaging acquisition to obtain co-registered T1, T2, and ADC parametric maps. Mean NAWM values were compared with a control group (n = 13). The patient group showed a small but significant increase in ADC in NAWM, with no significant change in T1 or T2 relaxation times. There was a correlation between injury severity and increasing ADC (p = 0.03) but no correlation with either T1 or T2, suggesting that ADC is a sensitive and independent marker of diffuse white matter tissue damage following traumatic insult. None of the patients had a reduced ADC, making ischaemia unlikely in this cohort. Pathophysiological mechanisms that may explain diffusely raised ADC include vasogenic edema, chronic ischemic phenomena, or changes in tissue cytoarchitecture or neurofilament alignment.