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Objective: The gross morphology and morphometry of the hippocampus, fornix, and corpus callosum in patients with severe non-missile traumatic brain injury (nmTBI) without obvious neuroradiological lesions was examined and the volumes of these structures were correlated with performance on memory tests. In addition, the predictability of the length of coma from the selected anatomical volumes was examined.
Method: High spatial resolution T1 weighted MRI scans of the brain (1 mm3) and neuropsychological evaluations with standardised tests were performed at least 3 months after trauma in 19 patients.
Results: In comparison with control subjects matched in terms of gender and age, volume reduction in the hippocampus, fornix, and corpus callosum of the nmTBI patients was quantitatively significant. The length of coma correlated with the volume reduction in the corpus callosum. Immediate free recall of word lists correlated with the volume of the fornix and the corpus callosum. Delayed recall of word lists and immediate recall of the Rey figure both correlated with the volume of the fornix. Delayed recall of the Rey figure correlated with the volume of the fornix and the right hippocampus.
Conclusion: These findings demonstrate that in severe nmTBI without obvious neuroradiological lesions there is a clear hippocampal, fornix, and callosal volume reduction. The length of coma predicts the callosal volume reduction, which could be considered a marker of the severity of axonal loss. A few memory test scores correlated with the volumes of the selected anatomical structures. This relationship with memory performance may reflect the diffuse nature of the damage, leading to the disruption of neural circuits at multiple levels and the progressive neural degeneration occurring in TBI.