Back in March, it was reported in the Journal of Neurosurgery that a team of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh had developed the new imaging technique High Definition Fiber Tracking as a tremendous breakthrough in the way doctors could examine traumatic brain injuries. The tracking process allows doctors to look directly at broken neural connections, which may help them finally understand and even predict how a TBI worsens after the initial accident and first wave of damage.
According to an article from Science Daily on March 2, Pittsburgh neurosurgeon and associate professor at the university’s Department of Neurological Surgery David Okonkwo, MD, PhD believed then that this breakthrough could allow neurosurgeons to look at TBI in a whole new light.
“There are about 1.7 million cases of TBI in the country each year, and all too often conventional scans show no injury or show improvement over time even though the patient continues to struggle. Until now, we have had no objective way of identifying how the injury damaged the patient’s brain tissue, predicting how the patient would fare, or planning rehabilitation to maximize the recovery.”
Eight months later, the use of HDFT is proving Dr. Okonkwo correct. In a report this week by KSN3, the Dallas area NBC affiliate, doctors at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Plano revealed that HDFT has given them significant insight into the brain injury of Marshal Reid, who suffered his TBI during a high school football game. Essentially acting as a high definition X-ray of the brain, HDFT allows the physicians to see the brain in color, which offers a huge advantage over the traditional MRI, which only shows injuries in black and white.
More importantly, the HDFT shows every single fiber in the brain, as if the doctor is looking at the wiring and circuit board of a massive computer. While Reid’s brain injury wasn’t as serious as others, the HDFT process now offers him the advantage of receiving regular examinations to help predict whether or not he will ever regress in health. Brain injuries are wholly unpredictable, which is why Dr. Okonkwo and many of his peers are hoping that HDFT may be the answer to that problem.