Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center (SFGH) have found that hospital MRIs are more effective at detecting mild traumatic brain injury after a car accident (or other accident) than traditional CT scans.
The study followed 135 individuals with brain injury symptoms. At first, the participants were given CT scans to detect signs of bleeding in the brain. A week later, they underwent MRIs. According to researchers, more than a quarter of patients who had "normal" CT scans were found to have focal lesions (signs of bleeding in the brain) through their MRIs.
That number -- 22 out of 135 -- is statistically significant. The senior author of the study, Geoff Manly, MD, PhD, puts it gently: "This work questions of how we're currently managing patients via CT scan. Having a normal CT scan doesn't, in fact, say you're normal."
Knowing that a person has suffered a mild traumatic brain injury is important because it can help doctors determine who is at risk for permanent injury. Approximately one in six people with a mild TBI develops persistent symptoms and, in many cases, a permanent disability. By knowing the injury exists, doctors can monitor the patients for permanent damage.
Knowing that an accident victim suffered a TBI is also important from a personal injury standpoint: By knowing the extent of an injury, a victim can recover adequate compensation for past and future medical bills, including rehabilitation.
Source: USCF, "MRIs reveal signs of brain injuries not seen in CT scans," Jason Bardi, Dec. 18, 2012