Diagnostic approaches to predict persistent post-traumatic symptoms after mild traumatic brain injury - a literature review

Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is one of the most frequently diagnosed neurological disorders in emergency departments. Although there are established recommendations for the diagnosis and treatment in the acute stage, there is an on-going debate in which diagnostic methods and risk factors predict unfavourable long-term outcome after mTBI. This literature review addresses the question, which diagnostic approaches may best predict persistent post-traumatic symptoms (pPTS). A literature search for experimental studies from January 2000 to September 2014 evaluating the following diagnostic approaches (1) susceptibility weighted imaging (SWI), (2) diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), (3) magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), (4) functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), as predictive factors of pPTS or unfavourable cognitive outcome in adult populations with mTBI was performed. DTI has been proved to be a valuable tool to identify diffuse axonal injury (DAI) after mTBI. Additionally, some studies showed associations between DAI and unfavourable cognitive outcome. SWI has shown to be a highly sensitive imaging method to identify microbleeds. The presence and quantity of microbleeds in this imaging technique can further provide aetiological evidence for pPTS. MRS provides information about local neurons metabolism and preliminary data show that creatine-phosphocreatine levels measured after mTBI are predictive of cognitive outcome and emotional distress. The results of one study have shown fMRI as a useful tool to differentiate mTBI patients with pPTS from controls and mTBI patients without pPTS in a resting-state condition. From the evaluated diagnostic approaches to predict pPTS after mTBI, DTI, SWI, MRS, and fMRI seem to have adequate sensitivity and specificity as predictive diagnostic tools for pPTS. Large longitudinal clinical trials are warranted to validate the prognostic applicability and practicability in daily clinical practice.


Related material