Thanks to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, there might soon be a more effective way of identifying and diagnosing traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Research into the new technology is beginning in military and civilian patients, and if successful, could mean uncovering injuries that previously went unseen and therefore untreated.
Weighing in at only three pounds, the brain controls nearly every aspect of our daily lives by linking an intricate network of nerves to our face, ears, eyes, nose, and spinal cord. When the survivor of a car accident suffers a head injury or a football player endures a debilitating concussion, these nerves can become damaged, causing serious neurological problems. If doctors are unable to identify this underlying nerve damage, rehabilitation and healing will be delayed, leaving patients at risk for future complications.
The new technology developed at Pitt is called high-definition fiber tracking. It works by painting a picture of a patient's major mental pathways that is more vibrant than those created by current MRI technology. This gives doctors the ability to identify breaks in nerve connectors that can slow, or even stop, nerves from doing their assigned jobs. With this information, doctors will be able to target rehabilitation and repair efforts to the specific nerves affecting a TBI patient's disabilities.
Approximately 1.7 million people suffer TBIs in the United States each year, and the shortcomings of current diagnostic tools can lead to health risks for the patient and frustrations for patients and doctors alike. This newest advancement represents a huge improvement in treatment, and researchers hope it will inspire the development of even better diagnostic tools.