Brent Masel, M.D., the medical director of the Brain Injury Association-America published a paper which called traumatic brain injury a chronic disease. In that paper, Dr. Masel outlined a list of medical conditions associated with traumatic brain injury and encouraged that a TBI be looked at, “not as an event, not as the final outcome, but rather as the beginning of a disease process.”
More recently, Charles Wilkinson, Ph.D. and Elizabeth A. Colasurdo, researchers with the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle issued a press release stating: “Although studies and civilians indicate a 25%-50% prevalence of hormonal deficiencies resulted from brain injury, surprisingly there is limited data on the prevalence and symptoms in military veterans.”
A new study from the University of Adelaide in Australia found that in the medium- to long-term pediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI), the fractional anisotropy (FA) values for numerous large white matter tracks in comparison to the whole brain were related to cognition. This study, published online in Developmental Neuropsychology, specifically examined the relationship between diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) findings and cognition following pediatric traumatic brain injury.
Francis X. Conidi, M.D. from the Florida Center for Headache and Sports Neurology has issued a new study which examined retired NFL players for signs of traumatic brain injuries using Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI), and the results were fairly damning. The study found that over 40% of the retired NFL players had sustained a traumatic brain injury. Approximately 40 retired NFL players underwent the exam, which included a Compressive Neurological/Headache history, neurological examination, neurophysiological evaluation, Clinical Dementia Rating Scale, physiological evaluation and DTI MRI were performed. According to Dr. Conidi, this represents “one of the largest studies to date in living retired NFL players.”
The North America Brain Injury Society (NABIS) held its 29th Medical Legal Traumatic Brain Injury Seminar to educate attorneys and assist them in better representing their clients. Medical and legal experts from around the United States presented at this three day conference held in Tampa, Florida.
As one of the programs co-chairs, along with Ken Kolpan, Stewart Casper, and Simon Forgette, we put together what many considered to be the premier medical legal traumatic brain injury conference in the United States. I had the pleasure of presenting on the topic of the admissibility of diffusion tensor imaging, which is a sophistic neuroimaging technique that can detect traumatic brain injury where conventional MRI and CT cannot.
I look forward to seeing everyone next year (March 29-April 1, 2017) in New Orleans when NABIS will be hosting the 30th Medical Legal Traumatic Brain Injury Seminar in conjunction with the International Brain Injury Association’s 12th World Congress that will be held at the same time.
Brent Masel, M.D., medical director of the Brain Injury Association of America, authored a paper entitled “Brain Injury as a Chronic Disease” in which he presented the strong argument that traumatic brain injury should be thought of as a chronic disease. In the white paper he laid out the long term consequences of TBI, including increased mortality and the increased incidence of sequelae from TBI. Nevertheless, defense courtroom doctors continue to argue that mild traumatic injury is self limiting and does not result in long term problems.
A new study from the University of Toronto, titled “Risk of Suicide after a Concussion,” assessed the long-term risk of suicide after concussion. Dr. Michael Fralick and his colleagues performed a longitudinal cohort analysis of adults with the diagnosis of a concussion in Ontario, Canada from April 1, 1992 to March 31, 2012, a 20 year period. Severe cases that resulted in hospitalization were excluded.
A federal judge has once again upheld the introduction of diffusion tensor imagining (DTI) in an mTBI case, rejecting defendant’s motion to exclude the DTI findings. In White v. Deere and Co., plaintiff filed a product liability action arising out of an incident that occurred while plaintiff was operating her Deere Model 4600 compact utility tractor and Model 460 loader. Plaintiff asserted that she sustained a traumatic brain injury as a result of a hay bale falling onto her head while she was operating the tractor.
Plaintiff retained Randall Benson, M.D. a board-certified neurologist as one of her medical experts. According to the opinion, Dr. Benson opined plaintiff sustained a traumatic brain injury, basing his opinion, in part, on the results derived from a DTI. Defendants moved to exclude Dr. Benson’s DTI findings, arguing that the DTI finding was unreliable.
The court, after discussing the admissibility standard established by the US Supreme Court in Daubert, Joiner and Kumho Tire, performed an analysis to determine whether Dr. Benson’s use and reliance on DTI was permissible.
A Nevada District Court trial judge recently ruled that Michael Freeman, Ph.D., an epidemiologist, was qualified to testify in a medical malpractice case. Karosy v. Summerlin Hospital Medical Center, et al., Case No. A-12-660815-C (Clark County, Nevada D.C.). In this case, 16-month-old infant plaintiff was admitted to Summerlin Hospital with a diagnosis of pneumonia. When her condition worsened, she was ultimately intubated. During the course of care, plaintiff sustained severe brain damage. The defendants, through their experts, claimed that plaintiff’s severe brain damage was likely caused by plaintiff’s medical condition and not medical negligence.
Plaintiff retained Michael Freeman, Ph.D., an epidemiologist, who performed an expert analysis of defendants’ alternative theories of causation. Epidemiology is a particular branch of medicine which studies the patterns, causes, and effects of diseases and other factors relating to the health of the body. Dr. Freeman offered opinions in epidemiology and rebutted defendants’ expert’s opinions that the child’s brain damage was caused by plaintiff’s medical condition individually and/or in combination, rather than defendants’ alleged negligence.
Defendants filed a motion in limine to strike Dr. Freeman and argued that because Dr. Freeman was not a medical doctor, he was not qualified to give opinions as to breaches in the standard of care, medical causation, and life expectancy.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center recently utilized Shannon entropy, which is a mathematical information theory model that looks at areas of entropy or disorder in the brain, to determine which concussion patients would go on to suffer migraine headaches following a traumatic brain injury.
Researchers have been using Diffusion Tensor Imaging to assess concussion-related damage to the brain’s signal-transmitting white matter to look for symptoms like headaches. Fractional anistropy (FA), which measures how easily water moves through the brain, represents an average. As a result, someone with a higher FA to begin with may lose white matter integrity from trauma, but still might average out to have a normal mean FA, according to the study’s author Lea M. Alhilali, M.D.
It is well known that headache is one of the most common debilitating chronic pain conditions in patients who sustain a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). No conventional pharmacological treatment has been shown to be effective in treating headaches related to traumatic brain injury (TBI). I recently read an interesting abstract published in Pain Physician; 19(2)(E 34754)- entitled rTMS in Alleviating Mild TBI Related Headaches – A Case Series.
In this study, the authors designed a perspective evaluation in patients with established diagnoses of mild traumatic brain injury related headaches who were treated with neuronavigational guided rTMS. The study was conducted at the Veterans Administration San Diego Health Care System, where over 400 patients with mTBI are evaluated annually.
The study included six men (average age of 50) with mTBI-HA. Constant headaches were rated at 4 on a 0-10 numerical rating pain scale (NRPS) and all patients were on stable headache medication regiments. Each of the patients received 4 sessions of rTMS over a 2 month period.
Following the treatment, the patients were again evaluated. The average post rTMS headache intensity was reduced by 53.05%. The average headache exacerbation frequency per week was reduced by approximately 79% with 2 patients reporting complete cessation of severe headache episodes.
The authors concluded that rTMS offered a “non-evasive” treatment option for MTBI-HA.
(Pain Physician. 2016 Feb;19(2):E347-54. rTMS in Alleviating Mild TBI Related Headaches – A Case Series)
In researching the admissibility of Diffusion Tensor Imaging, I came upon a Louisiana court decision upholding the use of Diffusion Tensor Imaging. Andrew v. Patterson Motor Freight, Inc., Civil Action No. 6:13cv814 (U.S.D.C., W.D. 2014).
Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle crash and was diagnosed as having sustained a traumatic brain injury to the frontal lobe resulting in residual deficits in the areas of emotion, impulsivity, personality, and short term memory. Plaintiff retained Dr. Eduardo Gonzalez-Toledo who administered Diffusion Tensor Imaging, which according to Dr. Gonzalez-Toledo demonstrated evidence of traumatic brain injury pathology.
Defendants moved to bar Dr. Gonzalez-Toledo, a neuro-radiologist, arguing that Diffusion Tensor Imaging was not widely accepted for the diagnosis of traumatic brain injury. In support of their argument, defendants relied upon a single article entitled “Guidelines for the Ethical Use of Neuroimages in Medical Testimony.”
The Court found: