A Practical Alternative For Detecting Loss Of Neurons In Patients With Traumatic Brain Injury

Colorful Design Neurons

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of the most common causes of mortality and morbidity worldwide. Many people who suffer a TBI are left with brain dysfunction, which may continue for months or years after injury. Those who do experience cognitive impairments or other neurological deficits after a TBI typically also experience a decreased quality of life.

Researchers can assess brain dysfunction – often measured by a patient’s loss of neuronal integrity – with a variety of clinical tests. One commonly used method of assessing neuronal integrity is called positron emission tomography (PET), which uses a compound called C-11 flumazenil (FMZ) to measure neuronal integrity. FMZ PET is currently the most widely used means of assessing neuron loss after TBI. However, another method uses single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) and a compound called I-123 iomazenil (IMZ) to measure similar effects and to determine the structural damage caused by TBI.

A recent study sought to compare the efficiency of FMZ PET versus IMZ SPECT clinical tests for determining loss of neuronal integrity. Researchers administered both tests to seven TBI patients with neurobehavioral disability and compared the results. They found that IMZ SPECT results were almost the same as FMZ PET results for the seven TBI patients, indicating that IMZ SPECT is a viable alternative to FMZ PET imagery for determining loss of neuronal integrity.

Both FMZ PET and IMZ SPECT are useful imaging tools for clinicians who need to determine degree of neuron loss after TBI. Importantly, because IMZ SPECT can be administered in various facilities and is more versatile than its counterpart, IMZ SPECT may become widely adopted in clinical settings.

Abiko K, Ikoma K, Shiga T, et al. I-123 iomazenil single photon emission computer tomography for detecting loss of neuronal integrity in patients with traumatic brain injury. EJNMMI Research. (2017).