Structural and functional brain alterations in post-traumatic headache attributed to mild traumatic brain injury: A narrative review

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6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Introduction: By definition, post-traumatic headache (PTH) attributed to mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is not associated with brain structural abnormalities that are seen on routine clinical inspection of brain images. However, subtle brain structural abnormalities, as well as functional abnormalities, detected via research imaging techniques yield insights into the pathophysiology of PTH. The objective of this manuscript is to summarize published findings regarding research imaging of the brain in PTH attributed to mTBI. Methods:For this narrative review, PubMed was searched using the terms "post-traumatic headache" or "post-concussion headache" and "imaging" or "magnetic resonance imaging" or "research imaging" or "positron emission tomography". Articles were chosen for inclusion based on their relevance to the topic. Results: Ten articles were ultimately included within this review. The studies investigated white matter tract integrity and functional connectivity in acute PTH, structural measures, white matter tract integrity, cerebral blood flow, and functional connectivity in persistent PTH (PPTH), and proton spectroscopy in both acute and persistent PTH. The articles demonstrate that acute and persistent PTH are associated with abnormalities in brain structure, that acute and persistent PTH are also associated with abnormalities in brain function, that it might be possible to predict the persistence of PTH using brain imaging findings, and that there are differences in imaging findings when comparing PTH to healthy controls and when comparing PTH to migraine. Although it is not entirely clear if the imaging findings are directly attributable to PTH as opposed to the underlying TBI or other post-TBI symptoms, correlations between the imaging findings with headache frequency and headache resolution suggest a true relationship between the imaging findings and PTH. Conclusions: PTH attributed to mTBI is associated with abnormalities in brain structure and function that can be detected via research imaging. Additional studies are needed to determine the specificity of the findings for PTH, to differentiate findings attributed to PTH from those attributed to the underlying TBI and coexistent post-TBI symptoms, and to determine the accuracy of imaging findings for predicting the development of PPTH.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number615
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Volume10
Issue numberJUN
DOIs
StatePublished - 2019

Keywords

  • Brain imaging
  • Concussion
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Functional connectivity
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • Migraine
  • Post-traumatic headache
  • Traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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