Case Report: An MRI Traumatic Brain Injury Longitudinal Case Study at 7 Tesla: Pre- and Post-injury Structural Network and Volumetric Reorganization and Recovery
Importance: A significant limitation of many neuroimaging studies examining mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is the unavailability of pre-injury data. Objective: We therefore aimed to utilize pre-injury ultra-high field brain MRI and compare a collection of neuroimaging metrics pre- and post-injury to determine mTBI related changes and evaluate the enhanced sensitivity of high-resolution MRI. Design: In the present case study, we leveraged multi-modal 7 Tesla MRI data acquired at two timepoints prior to mTBI (23 and 12 months prior to injury), and at two timepoints post-injury (2 weeks and 8 months after injury) to examine how a right parietal bone impact affects gross brain structure, subcortical volumetrics, microstructural order, and connectivity. Setting: This research was carried out as a case investigation at a single primary care site. Participants: The case participant was a 38-year-old female selected for inclusion based on a mTBI where a right parietal impact was sustained. Main outcomes: The main outcome measurements of this investigation were high spatial resolution structural brain metrics including volumetric assessment and connection density of the white matter connectome. Results: At the first scan timepoint post-injury, the cortical gray matter and cerebral white matter in both hemispheres appeared to be volumetrically reduced compared to the pre-injury and subsequent post-injury scans. Connectomes produced from whole-brain diffusion-weighted probabilistic tractography showed a widespread decrease in connectivity after trauma when comparing mean post-injury and mean pre-injury connection densities. Findings of reduced fractional anisotropy in the cerebral white matter of both hemispheres at post-injury time point 1 supports reduced connection density at a microstructural level. Trauma-related alterations to whole-brain connection density were markedly reduced at the final scan timepoint, consistent with symptom resolution. Conclusions and Relevance: This case study investigates the structural effects of traumatic brain injury for the first time using pre-injury and post-injury 7 Tesla MRI longitudinal data. We report findings of initial volumetric changes, decreased structural connectivity and reduced microstructural order that appear to return to baseline 8 months post-injury, demonstrating in-depth metrics of physiological recovery. Default mode, salience, occipital, and executive function network alterations reflect patient-reported hypersomnolence, reduced cognitive processing speed and dizziness.