Patients with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) have been significantly helped by Computerised Tomography (CT) and standard Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) brain imaging technology. A research team is trialling a new, more refined imaging technology which may be able to go a step further and predict long-term physical and mental outcomes in trauma patients.

CT and standard MRI scans have been invaluable for identifying lesions requiring urgent surgical interventions, but not more subtle damage.

This new technology, referred to as Multi Modality MRI (MM-MRI), combines two different imagining techniques (Diffusion Tensor Imagingand Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy).

These techniques are different to CT and MRI technology in that they are able to detect Traumatic Axonal Injury (TAI), the damage to tracts of white matter that connect structures in the brain, and it is associated with significant disability, including the majority of TBI-related mental deficits.

The ability to detect TAI and predict patient outcomes will allow for great improvements in surgical treatment and ongoing clinical care of TBI patients.

Professor Jamie Cooper, Director of the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Research Centre and Head of Intensive Care Unit Research at the Alfred Hospital, is running trials to test the possibilities of MM-MRI.

Status

Professor Cooper's team completed two trials of MM-MRI.

One of the trials involved using MM-MRI technology to check brain structure after craniectomy, with the hope that these scans could be used to improve surgery technique. The other looked at patients in persistent comas on mechanical ventilation, and the possibility of using MM-MRI to assist in early decision making regarding treatment.

These trials are pilot projects, designed to testthe feasibility of running further research in this area.

A report was issued after the studies were completed, confirming that MM-MRI scanning is an effective tool for measuring injury to brain fibres after TBI.

This report also marks the beginning of Alfred Health's participation in an international research project around this technology (being conducted across 80 sites globally).