A depth of lesion (DOL) model using brain imaging has been proposed to aid in medical decision-making and planning for rehabilitation resource needs. The purpose of this study was to determine the early prognostic value of a DOL classification system for children and young adults following severe traumatic brain injury.
Methods and Outcome measures:
CT/MRI brain imaging studies on 92 patients, aged 3 to 21, admitted to the Kluge Children's Rehabilitation Center, University of Virginia, were evaluated to determine DOL. Images were classified according to 5 DOL levels (cortical to brainstem). Functional outcomes in mobility, self-care, and cognition, as rated on the WeeFIM instrument, were compared by DOL levels.
Admission WeeFIM scores were significantly different for the DOL levels with the highest score for frontal and/or temporal lesions and the lowest for lesions including the brainstem or cerebellum (P < .001). However, the deeper the lesion, the greater the functional gains (P = .05), resulting in discharge WeeFIM scores that were not significantly different across DOL levels. Patients with deeper lesions tended to have longer lengths of stay in rehabilitation but were able to “catch up” with patients who had more superficial lesions.
While relatively simple and convenient, the DOL classification system is limited in its usefulness as an early prognostic tool. It may not be possible to predict outcome in the early acute phase in the intensive care unit on the basis of standard brain imaging alone. Patients with deeper lesions may enter rehabilitation at a more impaired level but can make remarkable progress, though it may take longer than for less severely injured individuals.