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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 15  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 370-376

Demystifying white matter injury in the unconscious patients with diffusion tensor imaging

1 Department of Neurosurgery, Sri Ramachandra Institute of Higher Education and Research, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Department of Neurosurgery, Sri Venkateswara Institute of Medical Sciences, Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, India
3 Department of Neurosurgery, Fujita Health University Babuntane Hospital, Nagoya, Japan
4 Department of Radiology, Joint Research Laboratory of Advanced Medical Imaging, Fujita Health University, Toyoake, Aichi, Japan

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Sneha Chitra Balasubramanian
Department of Neurosurgery, Sri Ramachandra Institute of Higher Education and Research, Porur, Chennai - 600 116, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ajns.AJNS_55_20

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Background: Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and diffusion tensor tractography (DTT) provide a noninvasive window to study the neural connectivity and reconstruct the tracts. Detection of white matter injury (WMI) by DTT is a recent application being used in stroke, diffuse axonal injury, and neurodegenerative disorders. Fiber tracking in patients with brain hemorrhage can detect loss of fibers and anatomical disruption of the tracts, which can be useful in the prognostication of patient outcome. Materials and Methods: DTI and fiber tracking was done in four patients admitted at Fujita Health University Banbuntane Hospital, Japan, with decreased consciousness following brain hemorrhage (3 patients with aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage and one patient with bifrontal hemorrhage), and WMI was analyzed. We also reviewed the literature on tractography in patients with brain hemorrhage and its correlation with consciousness. Results: We found significant frontal WMI in the form of thinning and anatomical disruption in all four cases. The frontal white matter tracts form an important component of the limbic system and ascending reticular activating system and frontal WMI correlated with the poor conscious level and cognitive dysfunction. Structural damage to the fiber tracts demonstrated as thinning, reduction in the volume or absence on tractography with corresponding reduction in the mean fractional anisotropy values in the frontal white matter of the affected side. Conclusion: DTI can be useful as a critical tool for revealing the anatomical basis for the cognitive dysfunction and unconsciousness and can be possibly used to prognosticate patient recovery. Early detection of WMI by DTI can also help in tailored rehabilitation. The authors believe that DTT could have a crucial role in the future for detecting structural changes which lead to cognitive dysfunction and further studies are needed to arrive at a specific protocol for detecting WMI.

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