Brain CT scans are useful in detecting significant bleeding or hemorrhage within the brain that may require immediate surgery to save the patient’s life. However, brain CT is not very sensitive in detecting smaller brain hemorrhages that may not kill the patient, but that can result in long-term cognitive impairment.
An MRI of the brain is much more sensitive in detecting smaller brain hemorrhages as compared to a CT scan. This is especially true with injury to the nerve fibers of the brain called diffuse axonal injury. Moreover, the type of MRI scan that is used also makes a difference in detecting smaller hemorrhages. As a patient, one might think that one’s treating physician would know this. Unfortunately, this often is not the case.
The term “Tesla” in MRI imaging refers to the magnetic field strength of the magnet that is used in an MRI machine. The greater the Tesla value, the higher the magnetic field strength of the machine. The most common type of MRI scanner in use in the United States today is a 1.5 Tesla scanner. However, in recent years 3 Tesla scanners have also become available in many major metropolitan hospitals, particularly those with a Level One Trauma Center rating.
In medical studies that have looked at the difference between these two scanners regarding what can be detected in medical imaging, it was found that 3 Tesla scanners were twice as sensitive as a 1.5 Tesla scanner in detecting the presence of small hemorrhages and the presence of diffuse axonal injury within the brain. This is particularly true when susceptibility-weighted imaging (SWI) was used, which is more sensitive to the presence of blood products that are associated with microscopic bleeding within the brain.
As a practical matter, it is unlikely that a patient or their family is going to be aware of the benefits of a 3 Tesla MRI scan with SWI imaging in a hospital emergency room setting when a head injury is suspected. However, if a patient continues to have symptoms of traumatic brain injury, such as difficulties with concentration and memory, this type of MRI scan should be discussed with the treating physician.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, having a lawyer who understands the medical issues that are involved with that injury can make a big difference in convincing the liability insurance company to pay what they rightfully owe. Call the law office of James F. Ludlow for a free consultation regarding your injury and how we can help. My firm can be reached toll-free at (877) 897-9466 or by filling out the simple form on the Contact Us page.