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FDA Approves Test That Could Help Detect Concussions Quickly

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The FDA has announced that they have approved a blood test that can quickly and reliably detect signs of a concussion.  Typically, when someone seeks medical care after a head injury, they’re subjected to a neurological test and/or a CT scan. The problem with that is that CT scans can only detect bleeding or swelling in the brain.  But they can’t detect minor injuries – which can still be serious.  Additionally, if a CT scan doesn’t spot anything, the scan has unnecessarily exposed the patient to radiation.  Similarly, neurological tests, which take some time to complete, aren’t always accurate since the medical professional conducting it doesn’t always have the patient’s baseline performance to compare it to.

What does this mean?  Serious brain injuries can go undetected.  But, a blood test could provide an objective measure when it comes to head trauma that could give physicians some more solid information to work from and therefore help guide their treatment plans. The test was developed by Banyan Biomarkers and has been approved by the FDA.  Essentially it measures two proteins that the brain releases into the blood after a head injury.  The FDA said it was able to predict the presence of brain lesions 97% of the time and correctly determine who didn’t have a lesion 99.6% of the time.  This test could be used by a physician to determine whether more complicated (and expensive) tests are necessary.

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This is potentially great news.  I mean, a blood test is far less intrusive than a CT scan.  But it is also less costly for you or your insurance company.  The test is called the Brain Trauma Indicator and it has only been approved for adults.  However, Banyan Biomarkers plans to conduct a clinical trial that will test its effectiveness in children who have sustained a head injury.  This test is likely to appeal to the sports world – especially the NFL.  But this has also caught the eye of the Department of Defense.  The NFL has become kind of famous for the amount of head trauma that is a result of the game and therefore linked to life-threatening disorders.  The NFL being interested in this study makes sense to me, but I didn’t realize that the military also has concerns about soldiers with brain injuries.

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Having this kind of test would be incredible in order to determine if someone has a concussion.  But the bigger challenge is how can we prevent, and ultimately treat concussions.  Please don’t get me wrong.  I am not downplaying this test as I think it’s truly incredible, but once someone has been diagnosed with a concussion – then what.  Sure the test will ensure that someone with a serious head injury will be diagnosed appropriately.  But what happens after that?  There aren’t great treatment options at this point.  The FDA supports the blood test as it helps with the FDA’s Initiative to Reduce Unnecessary Radiation Exposure from Medical Imaging.

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