Using PET Scans to Diagnose Mild TBI
CT scans and MRIs do not show mild TBI because mild TBI exists at the microscopic level unlike severe or moderate TBI which are accompanied by macroscopic bruising, swelling or bleeding of brain tissue. Some clever neuroscientists at the University of Virginia have just found a way to detect mild TBI using a PET scanner. The technique involves putting a radioactive tracer in the patient’s blood which attaches itself to neutrophils (white blood cells that travel through blood vessels which access cerebro-spinal fluid to the site of a brain injury). When a PET scan is taken of the brain of a patient with a mild TBI the neuro-radiologist ought to be able to see one or more areas where the radioactively traced neutrophils have gathered to clear the microscopic debris from the brain injury. This research was funded by the U.S. military’s Defense Health Program. The UVA research team consists of radiologist/neuroscientist James Stone, MD, PhD, and radiology researchers Stuart Berr, PhD, Jiang He, PhD, and Dongfeng Pan, PhD.