Detecting traumatic brain lesions in children: CT versus MRI versus susceptibility weighted imaging (SWI)

Miriam H Beauchamp, Michael Ditchfield, Franz E Babl, Michael Kean, Cathy Catroppa, Keith Owen Yeates, Vicki Anderson

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110 Citations (Scopus)


Cranial CT scans are at the center of decision making in brain injuries in children because of their speed and ability to detect surgically relevant lesions. However, alternative techniques, such as conventional MRI may have advantages in terms of radiation exposure and sensitivity to detect brain injury. Susceptibility-weighted imaging (SWI), a relatively novel MRI sequence, shows promise in terms of its sensitivity in detecting hemorrhagic lesions; however, its clinical potential remains uncertain. In this observational study of children (5-16 years of age) with traumatic brain injury (TBI) at a tertiary pediatric emergency department (ED) we compared the ability of detecting traumatic brain lesions on acute CT and MRI/SWI ∼5 weeks post-injury based on detecting the presence or absence, extent, and type of traumatic brain lesions. We analyzed the results of 76 patients (53 male) after TBI (mean age 10.24±2.50 years, range 5.75-14.67 years). Glasgow Coma Score was 13-15 in 54 patients (71%), 9-12 in 13 patients (17%) and <8 in 9 patients (12%). CTs were completed in the ED; MRI and SWI were completed at a mean of 36.11±15.75 days post-injury. Detection of any lesions occurred on CT scan in 68%, on MRI in 54%, and on SWI in 86% of cases, and SWI detected additional lesions 30% of the time compared to CT and MRI. SWI may be more sensitive in detecting traumatic lesions than CT or MRI. This may be important for the ongoing management of TBIs and their prognosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)915-927
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neurotrauma
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • child
  • CT
  • MRI
  • SWI
  • TBI

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