UpToDate: Diffuse axonal injury outcome

Diffuse axonal injury outcome

Diffuse axonal injury, and more generally TBI, often results in physical, cognitive, and behavioral impairments that can be temporary or permanent1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) 7) 8) 9) 10).

The outcome of patients after DAI has been linked to the number of lesions identified through imaging. A longitudinal study that analyzed the evolution of traumatic axonal injury using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of 58 patients with moderate or severe TBI showed that the greater the number of lesions observed early after trauma, the greater the impairment of functionality after 12 months 11).

A study of 26 DAI patients indicated that the volume and number of lesions identified by MRI performed within 48 h of hospital admission strongly correlated with the level of disability observed at the time of hospital discharge 12).

DAI with hypoxia, as measured by peripheral oxygen saturation, and hypotension with New Injury Severity Score (NISS) value – had a statistically significant association with patient mortality; on the other hand, severity of DAI and length of hospital stay were the only significant predictors for dependence. Therefore, severity of DAI emerged as a risk factor for both mortality and dependence 13).

Clinical evidence of DAI on MRI may only be useful for predicting short-term in-hospital functional outcome. Given no association of DAI and long-term TBI outcomes, providers should be cautious in attributing DAI to future neurologic function, quality of life, and/or survival 14).

Brain atrophy progresses over time, but patients showed better executive function (EF) and verbal episodic memory (EVM) in some of the tests, which could be due to neuroplasticity 15).



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Gennarelli TA. Cerebral concussion and diffuse brain injuries. 3rd ed In: Cooper PR, editor. , editor. Head Injury. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins; (1993). p. 137–58.

Lagares A, Ramos A, Alday R, Ballenilla F, Pérez-Nuñez A, Arrese I, et al. Magnetic resonance in moderate and severe head injury: comparative study of CT and MR findings. Characteristics related to the presence and location of diffuse axonal injury in MR. Neurocirugia (Astur) (2006) 17(2):105–18.10.1016/S1130-1473(06)70351-7

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Chelly H, Chaari A, Daoud E, Dammak H, Medhioub F, Mnif J, et al. Diffuse axonal injury in patients with head injuries: an epidemiologic and prognosis study of 124 cases. J Trauma (2011) 71(4):838–46.10.1097/TA.0b013e3182127baa

Jeong JH, Kim YZ, Cho YW, Kim JS. Negative effect of hypopituitarism following brain trauma in patients with diffuse axonal injury. J Neurosurg (2010) 113(3):532–8.10.3171/2009.10.JNS091152

Ham TE, Sharp DJ. How can investigation of network function inform rehabilitation after traumatic brain injury? Curr Opin Neurol (2012) 25(6):662–9.10.1097/WCO.0b013e328359488f

Sousa RMC. Comparisons among measurement tools in traumatic brain injury outcomes. Rev Esc Enferm USP (2006) 40(2):203–13.10.1590/S0080-62342006000200008

Scholten AC, Haagsma JA, Andriessen TM, Vos PE, Steyerberg EW, van Beeck EF, et al. Health-related quality of life after mild, moderate and severe traumatic brain injury: patterns and predictors of suboptimal functioning during the first year after injury. Injury (2015) 46(4):616–24.10.1016/j.injury.2014.10.064

Liew BS, Johari SA, Nasser AW, Abdullah J. Severe traumatic brain injury: outcome in patients with diffuse axonal injury managed conservatively in hospital Sultanah Aminah, Johor Bahru – an observational study. Med J Malaysia (2009) 64(4):280–8.

Moen KG, Skandsen T, Folvik M, Brezova V, Kvistad KA, Rydland J, et al. A longitudinal MRI study of traumatic axonal injury in patients with moderate and severe traumatic brain injury. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry (2012) 83(12):1193–200.10.1136/jnnp-2012-302644

Schaefer PW, Huisman TA, Sorensen AG, Gonzalez RG, Schwamm LH. Diffusion-weighted MR imaging in closed head injury: high correlation with initial Glasgow Coma Scale score and score on modified Rankin scale at discharge. Radiology (2004) 233(1):58–66.10.1148/radiol.2323031173

Vieira RC, Paiva WS, de Oliveira DV, Teixeira MJ, de Andrade AF, de Sousa RM. Diffuse Axonal Injury: Epidemiology, Outcome and Associated Risk Factors. Front Neurol. 2016 Oct 20;7:178. eCollection 2016. PubMed PMID: 27812349; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5071911.

Humble SS, Wilson LD, Wang L, Long DA, Smith MA, Siktberg JC, Mirhoseini MF, Bhatia A, Pruthi S, Day MA, Muehlschlegel S, Patel MB. Prognosis of diffuse axonal injury with traumatic brain injury. J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2018 Jul;85(1):155-159. doi: 10.1097/TA.0000000000001852. PubMed PMID: 29462087; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6026031.

Stewan Feltrin F, Zaninotto AL, Guirado VMP, Macruz F, Sakuno D, Dalaqua M, Magalhães LGA, Paiva WS, Andrade AF, Otaduy MCG, Leite CC. Longitudinal changes in brain volumetry and cognitive functions after moderate and severe diffuse axonal injury. Brain Inj. 2018 Jul 19:1-10. doi: 10.1080/02699052.2018.1494852. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 30024781.

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