Mild Brain Damage May Be Long-Term

Mild traumatic brain injury may result in damage even a year later

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Most traumatic brain injuries are mild or moderate, but that doesn't mean they can't cause long-term damage.

A recent study found that even mild traumatic brain injuries showed evidence of damage in the brain a year later.

Patients who had a traumatic brain injury appeared to regain thinking and memory skills within a year of their injuries, but the part of the brain where cells communicate still showed some damage.

"Seek medical care even after mild brain injuries."

The study was led by Iain D. Croall, MRes, of the Institute of Cellular Medicine at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, and colleagues. It looked at the possible effects of mild traumatic brain injury, which is characterized by trauma to the head by an external object or force.

The researchers compared brain scans of 44 patients with mild traumatic brain injury, nine patients with moderate traumatic brain injury and 33 individuals with no history of brain injury.

The 33 participants whose scans were compared to the injured participants were matched to injured patients in terms of age, sex and education level.

All the injured participants received MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans within two weeks of their injuries. The participants whose brains were scanned also took a series of cognitive tests to assess their thinking and memory skills.

In addition, 23 of the injured participants took these cognitive tests and had their brains scanned again a year after their injuries.

The authors of this study found damage in the injured patients' white matter in the part of the brain where neurons communicate with one another.

In addition, the injured participants scored about 25 percent lower on the verbal cognitive tests than those who did not have brain injuries.

The researchers found that the patients who had the most damage in their white matter tended to be the patients with the lower scores on the verbal tests.

When the 23 injured patients were tested a year later, they scored just as well as the healthy comparison participants.

However, the MRI scans of the injured individuals still showed some damage in parts of the white matter, though not as much damage as two weeks after the injuries.

The patients regained their cognitive skills after the brain had partly healed over time, but residual damage from the original brain injury was apparent a year later.

The study will appear in the Aug. 5 issue of Neurology. The research was funded by the Sir Jules Thorn Charitable Trust Biomedical Research Award. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
July 15, 2014
Last Updated:
July 16, 2014