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Fiber Tracking Gives Better Picture of Concussions

Scan shows new way to diagnose, track brain injuries

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    NEWSLETTERS

    An advanced MRI scan that tracks the fibers of the brain is helping doctors track concussion damage.

    A new technique is changing the way doctors help track the healing process in the human brain.

    Commonly called fiber tracking, the process is relatively new to clinical practice and works much like an MRI scan.

    Doctors may not have gotten the full picture of the extent of concussion patient and high school football player Marshal Reid's injuries without fiber tracking.

    "His routine MR sequences -- everything looked normal, but if you look at his fiber track, he does have asymmetry," said Dr. John Kim, a radiologist with Texas Health Plano.

    A traditional MRI scan is black and white, giving a picture of the brain's overall structure, he said.

    The fiber tracking scan, however, is in color. It breaks down the picture to the individual fibers or connections -- showing how the brain is wired.

    Kim said the brain's fibers are interconnected. Fewer connections of damaged connections can indicate injury to the brain. Many times, those connections can heal on their own, although, in some cases of extreme injury, connections are severed.

    One fateful hit in practice changed the fall of Reid's sophomore year at Trinity Christian.

    "I just went to my knees and grabbed my head," the linebacker said. "I get headaches every now and then. I get dizzy."

    Reid has had other injuries, such as a broken collar bone and a torn MCL. But the head injury changed everything about her son's routine, said his mother, Charla Reid.

    Per doctor's orders, he has been banned from everyday activities such as watching TV, texting, exercising, reading, doing homework and, for the most part, participating in the school day, although he still attends classes.

    "The concussion is just a whole new ball game, so to speak," she said. "The restriction from school, I'm definitely concerned about that."

    Fiber tracking gives a more accurate way to track Marshal Reid's recovery through high school and beyond college.

    "When you have a brain injury, you just wonder about its long-term effects," his mother said.