In 2001, Teasdale and Engberg published an article in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, entitled Suicide after Traumatic Brain Injury: A Population Study. The researchers reviewed data from Danish hospital admissions covering the years 1979-93 and found that patients who had sustained a TBI had an increased risk of suicide. The authors in that study concluded, “The increased risk of suicide among patients who had an MTBI may result from concomitant risk factors such as psychiatric conditions and psychosocial disadvantage. The greater risk among the more serious cases implicates additionally physical, physiological, and social consequences of the injuries as directly contributing to…suicide.”

In a recent research article, Lauren B. Fisher, et al. evaluated data from a brain injury-focused database, the BI Model Systems National Database, to further evaluate whether or not suicide rates are higher in TBI patients. Using patient health questionnaires detailing self-reported suicide attempts over a period of twenty years, the authors concluded that those who suffer a TBI are indeed at “greater risk for depression and suicidal behavior.” The outcome of the study indicates the need for “routine screening and mental health treatment in this population.”

The theory of neuroplasticity holds that the brain will change and adapt to different conditions including to childhood injuries. This theory is often challenged and sometimes referred to as a “myth.” However, a new study by Seena Fazel and colleagues from the Department of Psychiatry at University of Oxford in the United Kingdom delivered data that supports the claims of neuroplasticity theorists. Fazel’s conclusions reveal that the later a mild TBI is sustained, the worse the health and social outcome is for the patient. The study also found a causal effect between childhood Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) and the risk of brain impairment and social dysfunction at later stages in life.

Continue Reading New Study Debunks Claim that Neuroplasticity is a Myth—the Later the Onset of Mild TBI, the Worse the Outcome

Brain tsunamis are seizure-like waves of electrical activity in the brain caused by Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) and strokes. Much like a tidal wave in the ocean, brain tsunamis build power, wash through the brain, and subside, leaving behind a path of destruction. The waves exhibit electrical signal voltage up to ten times that of normal causing changes to chemistry balance, blood flow, and transfer of oxygen through the brain. During the ebb of the wave, they also cause the brain to short-circuit as evidenced by a period of “dead air” in audio recordings. Doctors have been able to track the process of brain tsunamis for several years but only recently have been able to identify the extent of damage.

Continue Reading Tracking Brain Tsunamis in TBI Patients

A new study published in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation calls into question whether acute cognitive and physical rest improves concussion recovery times. Thomas A. Buckley, EdD, ATC of the Department Kinesiology and Applied Physiology at the University of Delaware conducted a study to determine if rest after concussion would result in a shorter recovery time in a population of college-aged student-athletes.

This hypothesis was based on the 4th International Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport which recommends rest after injury as “a corner stone for acute concussion treatment” and outcomes. The authors noted that “rest” was achieved by discontinuing “school attendance, academic work, electronics usage and [any] exercise.” Prescribing rest was also believed to reduce the risk of repeated concussion and the “rare, but potentially fatal, second-impact syndrome.”

Continue Reading New Study Questions Whether Cognitive and Physical Rest Improves Concussion Recovery Time

A study by doctors at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine provides additional support that use of Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) may be clinically helpful to patients with mild Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) because it shows possible evidence of brain repair in post-injury patients. Scans conducted one year post-injury show that patients who exhibited abnormally high fractional anisotropy shortly after injury were “significantly associated” with better overall health outcomes.

The DTI scans were performed on a control group and on 39 injured subjects within 16 days of injury and one year later on 26 returning patients. According to the study, the patients were also tested for changes in cognition and symptomology. The results showed that DTI may be a “marker of compensatory neural mechanisms and an indicator of favorable outcome.” This is supportive data to an earlier study showing positive results from DTI use in pediatric patients, and an important study that used DTI to check the movement of water molecules in the brain of NFL players. In the NFL study the scans showed that those with marked deviations in fluid movement also demonstrated “abnormalities in attention and concentration, executive function, learning/memory and spatial/perceptual function.”

The ability to identify areas of damage and potential for repair are expected to inspire development of new effective treatments for patients with TBIs. Cognitive and physical effects of even mild TBIs may require extensive and long-term treatment from various healthcare providers including doctors, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and psychologists. If you or someone you know has suffered a TBI you should consult an experienced attorney to find out if you can seek reparation to get assistance with medical bills—consultations are usually free and services are often offered on a contingency basis.

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.

Continue Reading Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Study Finds Link Between Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) & Cognition

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.

Continue Reading Federal Trial Court Once Again Upholds Introduction of Diffusion Tensor Imagining into Evidence

It is ironic that on the same day I receive a defense neuropsychological report stating, “Individuals who have sustained a mild traumatic brain injury typically recover from neuro cognitive deficits within 6-9 months after the time of injury” that I also receive the current issue of the Journal of Neuro Trauma. And in this current edition, they discuss “the chronic consequences of neuro trauma,” which was guest edited by Brent E. Masel and Douglas S. DeWitt.

As you might recall, Masel and DeWitt are the authors of the BIAA White Paper, “Traumatic Brain Injury: A Disease Process, Not an Event,” which was also published in the Journal of Neuro Trauma (27, 1529‑1540).

Included in is issue, there is an interesting article by Helen M. Bramlett and W. Dalton Dietrich entitled, “Long-Term Consequences of Traumatic Brain Injury: Current Status of Potential Mechanisms of Injury and Neurological Outcomes.” In this article, the authors write, “In models of mild, moderate, and severe TBI, histopathological and behavioral studies have emphasized the progressive nature of the initial traumatic insult and the involvement of multiple pathophysiological mechanisms, including sustained injury cascades leading to prolonged motor and cognitive deficits.”

It is now well established in current literature that persons with mild traumatic brain injury do not all recover within the narrow 6-9 month range listed in the defense neuropsychological report I recently received. Unfortunately, many go on to suffer long term chronic consequences of mild traumatic brain injury.

If you are suffering from a traumatic brain injury, it is strongly recommended that you seek experienced legal counsel immediately.

Despite study after study demonstrating long term effects from mild traumatic brain injury (concussions), it is astounding that defense courtroom doctors still maintain that there are no permanent residuals from mild traumatic brain injury. A new studyImaging Correlates of Memory and Concussion History in Retired National Football League Athletes, published in JAMA Neurology once again debunks this myth that everyone gets better.

The objective of the study, according to the abstract was “to assess the relationship of hippocampal volume, memory performance, and the influence of concussion history in retired NFL athletes with and without mild cognitive impairment.” The design of the study was a retrospective cohort study assessing differences between groups, mean hippocampal volumes, and memory performance by computing age quintiles based on group-specific linear regression models corrected for multiple comparisons for both athletes and control participants. The study utilized 28 former NFL athletes who were compared with 27 control participants. The mean age was 58.1 for the former athletes and 59.0 for the control participants.

The study found that retired athletes with concussion history, but without cognitive impairment, had normal, but significantly lower, California Verbal Learning Test scores compared with control participants. However, those with a concussion history and mild cognitive impairment performed worse when compared with both control participants and athletes without memory impairment. Among the athletes, 17 had a G3 concussion and 11 did not. Older retired athletes with at least one G3 concussion had significantly smaller bilateral hippocampal volumes compared with control participants.

The authors concluded that “prior concussion that results in loss of consciousness is a risk factor for increased hippocampal atrophy and a development of mild cognitive impairment. In individuals with mild cognitive impairment, hippocampal volume loss appeared greater among those with a history of concussion.”

Neurological testing of the first cranial nerve, which carries the sensory information for the sense of smell, is rarely performed. A new study from the Walter Reed National Military Center provides proof that olfactory testing should be performed.

According to the abstract, the objective of this recent study was to determine whether a structured and quantitative assessment of differential olfactory performance – recognized between a blast-injured traumatic brain injury (TBI) group and a demographically comparable blast-injured control group can serve as a reliable antecedent marker for preclinical detection of inter cranial neuro trauma.

The researchers, at Walter Reed, performed a prospectively and consecutively enrolled evaluation of 231 polytrauma inpatients who were exposed to explosions during combat operations in either Afghanistan or Iraq. The study correlated olfactometric scores with both contemporaneous neuro imaging findings as well as the clinical diagnosis of TBI.

The study found that while “quantitative identification olfactometry had limited sensitivity, it had high specificity as a marker for detecting acute structural neuropathology from trauma.” The researchers found that central olfactory dysfunction identified patients with TBI who had intracranial radiologic abnormalities. While the test had a sensitivity of only 35%, it had a specificity of 100%.”

Neuro attorneys representing patients with suspected traumatic brain injury, should insist that the neurologic examination include a test of the first cranial nerve. If you have questions about these exams, you should speak with your legal counsel.