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CT Scans Often Miss Brain Damage

Concussion patients with a normal head CT scan may believe they are free of brain injury, but CT scans often miss damage at the molecular level, warns a University of Rochester Medical Center study published in the February issue of Academic Emergency Medicine journal.  You can review an abstract of the article entitled "Bench to Bedside: Evidence for Brain Injury after Concussion—Looking beyond the Computed Tomography Scan" by clicking here .

In fact, when doctors examine the nerve cells of concussion patients the pattern of brain injury is identical for mild and severe concussions, said lead author Jeffrey J. Bazarian, M.D., an attending physician in the Emergency Department at Strong Memorial Hospital, of the University of Rochester Medical Center.

In the article, Bazarian and colleagues said that a more accurate and rapid diagnostic test for concussion could lead to better treatment in the short term and might also prevent long-term neurological problems.

“Unfortunately, the widespread use of the CT scan as the primary tool for diagnosing head injuries has biased the way we think about concussions,” Bazarian said. “For many people, a more significant axonal injury has occurred, and this underlies the problems they have with motor skills and memory, and may also be a risk factor for later development of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.”

More than 1.2 million Americans seek emergency room care annually for mild head injuries. Doctors routinely use a Computed Tomography (CT) scan of the head to rule out bleeding on the brain or other symptoms of a brain injury. Many patients with a normal CT test go home. But an estimated 320,000 individuals, or one-quarter of those patients, continue to suffer from symptoms such as forgetfulness, headaches and other cognitive defects that persist beyond one year.

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