Researchers claim to have found key differences between Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by comparing more than 20,000 brain scans. TBI and PTSD have been notoriously difficult to distinguish from each other because they share many symptoms.
“This discovery is breakthrough information for anyone diagnosed with either TBI or PTSD or both,” said Theodore Henderson, MD, PhD, a co-author of the study, published last week in PLOS One, the seventh most cited medical journal in the world. “Now that we can tell the difference between TBI and PTSD, clinicians can apply more targeted and appropriate treatments, and achieve advances with their patients.”
In what is believed to be the largest functional neuroimaging study, the researchers used single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) to identify biological differences between TBI and PTSD.
“This study contained a subset of closely matched patients and a larger dataset of “real world” patients with multiple psychiatric or neurological conditions. The accuracy of the closely matched study was 100% which replicates our research on Veterans with TBI or PTSD (wherein the accuracy was 94%). It clearly delineates the potential of SPECT as a biomarker in differentiating TBI from PTSD – a critical issue for anyone suffering from symptoms with no answers,” said Dr. Henderson, a Denver-based psychiatrist specializing in treating complex conditions.
The two conditions often appear similar, as symptoms like anxiety, depression, mood dysregulation, and irritability are commonly seen in both, which led Dr. Henderson to emphasize the importance of providing accurate diagnoses for TBI or PTSD. “They may have similar symptoms, but treatments are very different,” he said.
“For example, some treatments for PTSD can actually be useless and possibly even harmful for TBI,” said Dr. Henderson. “Plus, TBI can refer to injury to any part of the brain, which would require different treatments as well.”