Clinical comparison of 99mTc exametazime and 123I ioflupane SPECT in patients with chronic mild traumatic brain injury.


Background: This study evaluated the clinical interpretations of single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) using a cerebral blood flow and a dopamine transporter tracer in patients with chronic mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). The goal was to determine how these two different scan might be used and compared to each other in this patient population.

Methods and Findings: Twenty-five patients with persistent symptoms after a mild TBI underwent SPECT with both 99mTc exametazime to measure cerebral blood flow (CBF) and 123I ioflupane to measure dopamine transporter (DAT) binding. The scans were interpreted by two expert readers blinded to any case information and were assessed for abnormal findings in comparison to 10 controls for each type of scan. Qualitative CBF scores for each cortical and subcortical region along with DAT binding scores for the striatum were compared to each other across subjects and to controls. In addition, symptoms were compared to brain scan findings. TBI patients had an average of 6 brain regions with abnormal perfusion compared to controls who had an average of 2 abnormal regions (p<0.001). Patient with headaches had higher CBF in the right frontal lobe, right thalamus, and left basal ganglia compared to patients without headaches. Lower CBF in the left frontal lobe and right temporal lobe correlated with poorer reported physical health. Higher DAT bindingwas associated with more depressive symptoms and overall poorer reported mental health. There was no clear association between CBF and DAT binding in these patients.

Conclusion(s): Overall, both scans detected abnormalities in brain function, but appear to reflect different types of physiological processes associated with chronic mild TBI symptoms. Both types of scans might have distinct uses in the evaluation of chronic TBI patients depending on the clinical scenario.

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