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New Study: SPECT is Best for Brain Injury Diagnosis and Treatment

Your brain is very delicate – the consistency of soft butter – and is protected by a hard skull with multiple sharp bony ridges.  Even minor blows to the head, without loss of consciousness, may result in brain injuries that cause serious consequences for the rest of life.

Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is the leading cause of death and disability for people between the ages of 1 and 44, and an often-overlooked cause of emotional, thinking, and behavioral problems.  People who have experienced TBI have a higher risk of depression, anxiety, suicidality, drug and alcohol abuse, job and marital failure, incarceration, homelessness, and dementia.

At Amen Clinics, we have been using brain SPECT imaging for the past 28 years.  One of the first lessons we learned was that undiagnosed brain injuries were a major cause of learning, emotional and behavior problems that were often misdiagnosed as “personality disorders” or people who just didn’t care enough to act right. 

In a world literature review done by my colleagues from the U.S. and Canada and I, we reviewed 1,600 research studies published over the last 30 years. Of these papers, 71 studies – involving 2,634 patients – were of the highest of quality and were included in the review. Nineteen studies followed TBI patients over time and 5 looked at the effects of treatment interventions.

Our extensive review concluded that:

  • SPECT is more sensitive than any other study, showing TBI abnormalities not seen on CT and MRI in all 10 of the studies that investigated such sensitivity – 100%.
  • SPECT findings correlate with the psychological and neurological symptoms of TBI.
  • SPECT is effective for helping to direct TBI treatment interventions.

According to Dr. Theodore Henderson, a senior author on the study:

“Persons with mild traumatic brain injury, which is often referred to as concussion or post-concussion syndrome, may not be properly identified as having credible neurological problems because commonly used anatomical CT or MRI scans in mild brain trauma are abnormal less than 10% of the time.

These same patients may have recurring psychiatric symptoms such as depression, attention problems, and impulse control issues. Commonly, they are referred to psychiatrists who generally do not use neuroimaging to diagnose and treat brain disorders.

Indeed, many cases of treatment-resistant depression turn out to have undiagnosed traumatic brain injury. Our study shows that SPECT can be useful and a true value-add in guiding diagnosis and treatment of such patients.”

Ultimately, how would physicians ever know if the TBI was significant unless they ordered a functional imaging study like SPECT?  Our paper shows that brain SPECT imaging can provide answers that may guide diagnosis and treatment of patients with Traumatic Brain Injury.

At Amen Clinics, we want to help you learn more about your brain and how to feel better.  Call us today at 888-288-9834 or tell us more to schedule an appointment.

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