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Diagnosis: Brain Injury

DALLAS (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- One person dies in a car crash in the U.S. every 13 minutes. If you're one of the lucky one's, you survive; but just because a victim's head isn't bleeding doesn't mean they are perfectly fine. In fact, two million people will suffer from a brain injury this year and many may not even realize it. Diagnosis can be difficult, but doctors are using a new twist to an old scan to help doctors better understand what's happening inside your brain.

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More than six million people will get in a car accident this year, three million people will be hurt and 40,000 will die.

"I was driving a small little sun fire and hit a big truck," car crash survivor David Hall, recalled to Ivanhoe.

Hall is one of the lucky ones. He escaped with his life, but the accident changed him forever.

"I used to pride myself on my intelligence level and how sharp I was and now it's just a struggle to think of the word to say," Hall explained.

He suffers from traumatic brain injury. It's affected his memory, speech and balance.

His type of brain injury, called diffuse axonal injury, is difficult to diagnose. The damage to the white matter in the brain doesn't show up on CT scans and is hard to see on MRIs.

"The white matter is the wires that connect one part of the brain to another and also connect the brain to the spinal cord," Ramon Diaz-Arrastia, M.D., a neurologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, explained to Ivanhoe.

Dr. Diaz-Arrastia is using an MRI technique called diffusion tensor imaging to reveal white matter damage.

An image from the new scan reveals just how much the white matter was damaged. Normally, brain cells are full of water, but when they are damaged, that water leaves the cell and surrounds it. The new scan clearly highlights the movement of water inside the brain's cells.

"White matter injury evolves after the first several weeks after the accident, and in fact, not all the axons are disrupted at the time of the accident," Dr. Diaz-Arrastia said.

Through this MRI study, doctors have learned it can take months for all the damage to occur, giving them time to stop the injury from spreading and patients like Hall a chance of a faster, fuller recovery.

Dr. Diaz-Arrastia says half of all brain injuries are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. He believes the new technique will be valuable in treating soldiers with brain damage -- many of whom are being told they have post traumatic stress disorder and that there is nothing wrong with them physically

The American Association of Physicists in Medicine contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.

Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:

If you would like more information, please contact:

Aline McKenzie
Senior Communications Specialist
UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas
(214) 648-3404

Dr. Sudarshan Chamakuri
Medical Physicist
American Association of Physicists in Medicine

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