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Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI): Symptoms Without Evidence

Though mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI), such as concussions, are common among soldiers and athletes, diagnosing them – especially if time has elapsed between injury and treatment – can be difficult. Many patients experience the neurological deficits associated with mTBI without physical evidence of injury via brain imaging.

For instance, nearly 70% of the brain’s sensory processing networks are dedicated to visual processing, and many areas of the brain that direct vision (such as the occipital and parietal lobes) are vulnerable to damage from mTBI. It follows that many patients will experience compromised vision following a brain injury. Yet brain imaging techniques such as MRI often fail to confirm that these patients have sustained physical damage to visual processing structures, indicating that mTBI-related damage to vision may occur on a level that is undetectable by MRI. This damage to visual processing, called Post Trauma Vision Syndrome (PTVS), may compromise eye movement, decrease spatial awareness, and impair balance; all of these symptoms, though sometimes physically undetectable, can significantly decrease patients’ quality of life.

The physical consequences of mTBI, particularly to visual fields, can be devastating for patients during the recovery period, even when there is no salient physical evidence of damage. Early recognition and diagnosis of mTBI is key to ensuring patient recovery across all health domains.

Source: Padula WV. Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI): Symptoms without evidence. Journal of the Neurological Sciences. (August 2016).

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