Undetected brain injuries can cause serious health consequences including strokes and other potentially fatal events. Traumatic brain injuries often go undetected until the individual exhibits obvious symptoms. Fortunately, a new blood test may make it easier for doctors to accurately diagnose a TBI. If effective, it could expedite treatment and improve patient outcomes.
TBI in the United States
Approximately 1.7 million people suffer a traumatic brain injury each year in the United States. A further 5.3 million people live with a disability caused by TBI. Every year, approximately 235,000 people are hospitalized for serious brain injuries. This is more than 20 times the number of people that are hospitalized for spinal cord injuries.
Between 50-70% of TBI’s are the result of motor vehicle accidents. About 21% are caused by sports activities. Of those who suffer a TBI, between 80,000 to 90,000 will develop long-term disabilities related to the injury.
Blood Testing for TBI
Researchers have developed a new handheld portable device and blood test that can provide instant discovery of TBI. The test can detect injuries that are not clear on lengthy CT or MRI scans. The test works in as short as 15 minutes. It’s a tool that can be administered by sports coaches and emergency responders, as well as nurses and physicians in emergency rooms.
The STAT Alinity system looks for blood-based biomarkers that can indicate the presence of brain injury. Specifically, it looks for the proteins GFAP and UCH-L1 which are released into the bloodstream when the brain suffers an injury. The test was developed as part of the Track-TBI program conducted by the Department of Defense and Abbott.
This new test is a potential game-changer in the diagnosis and treatment of TBI. Currently, it is estimated that approximately 50% of all concussions go undetected and undiagnosed. Current diagnosis guidelines call for the administration of CT scans and neurological questionnaires. However, these are not 100% effective.
Prompt Treatment Increases Patient Health
Prompt diagnosis results in faster treatment. This helps the brain heal more quickly and effectively. If the new test does what initial studies indicate, it has the potential to save lives and mitigate the long-term consequences of concussions, contusions, and other injuries that current testing technology can miss during examination.