[en] Purpose of review
Neuroimaging has acquired a prominent place in the assessment of disorders of consciousness (DoC). Rapidly evolving technologies combined with state-of-the-art data analyses open new horizons to probe brain activity, but selecting appropriate imaging modalities from the plethora of available techniques can be challenging for clinicians. This update reviews selected advances in neuroimaging that demonstrate clinical relevance and translational potential in the assessment of severely brain-injured patients with DoC.
Magnetic resonance imaging and high-density electroencephalography provide measurements of brain connectivity between functional networks, assessments of language function, detection of covert consciousness, and prognostic markers of recovery. Positron emission tomography can identify patients with preserved brain metabolism despite clinical unresponsiveness and can measure glucose consumption rates in targeted brain regions. Transcranial magnetic stimulation and near-infrared spectroscopy are noninvasive and practical tools with promising clinical applications.
Each neuroimaging technique conveys advantages and pitfalls to assess consciousness. We recommend a multimodal approach in which complementary techniques provide diagnostic and prognostic information about brain function. Patients demonstrating neuroimaging evidence of covert consciousness may benefit from early adapted rehabilitation. Translating methodological advances to clinical care will require the implementation of recently published international guidelines and the integration of neuroimaging techniques into patient-centered decision-making algorithms.