Predominance of cellular edema in traumatic brain swelling in patients with severe head injuries

Anthony Marmarou, Stefano Signoretti, Panos P. Fatouros, Gina Portella, Gunes A. Aygok, M. Ross Bullock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

159 Scopus citations


Object. The edema associated with brain swelling after traumatic brain injury (TBI) has been thought to be vasogenic in origin, but the results of previous laboratory studies by the authors have shown that a cellular form of edema is mainly responsible for brain swelling after TBI. In this study the authors used magnetic resonance (MR) imaging techniques to identify the type of edema that occurs in patients with TBI. Methods. Diffusion-weighted MR imaging was used to evaluate the apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) in 44 patients with TBI (Glasgow Coma Scale Score < 8) and in eight healthy volunteers. Higher ADC values have been associated with vasogenic edema, and lower ADC values with a predominantly cellular form of edema. Regional measurements of ADC in patients with focal and diffuse injury were computed. The water content of brain tissue was also assessed in absolute terms by using MR imaging to measure the percentage of water per gram of tissue. Cerebral blood flow (CBF) was measured using stable Xe-computerized tomography (CT) studies to rule out ischemia as a cause of cellular edema. The mean ADC value in the healthy volunteers was 0.82 ± 0.05 × 10-3 mm2/second. The ADC values in the patients with diffuse brain injury without swelling were close to the mean for the healthy volunteers. In contrast, the patients with brain swelling had increased brain water content and low ADC values (mean 0.74 ± 0.05 × 10-3 mm2/second). The ADC values correlated with CT classifications. In all patients with low ADC values, the CBF values were outside the range for ischemia. Conclusions. The brain swelling observed in patients with TBI appears to be predominantly cellular, as signaled by low ADC values in brain tissue with high levels of water content.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)720-730
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2006


  • Apparent diffusion coefficient
  • Brain edema
  • Brain injury
  • Head injury
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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