New Test Could Diagnose Brain Injuries in Minutes

Stephen M. Smith
Last Updated:
December 2, 2019

Brain injuries are difficult to diagnose, particularly if they are on the mild end of the spectrum. A recent article highlighted a portable device that could make diagnosis easier and quicker.

A report from the Transforming Research and Clinical Knowledge in Traumatic Brain Injury (TRACK-TBI) study suggested the new technology could fill a gap in hospital emergency departments, sports field, and on the battlefield, the Lancet noted. Several studies are being conducted into finding more effective and quicker tests for mild TBIs.

The study looked at 450 patients who were admitted to the emergency rooms. It suggested blood-based biomarkers can detect TBIs in as little as 15 minutes.

As experienced brain injury trial lawyers, we are well aware of the obstacles hospitals face diagnosing mild traumatic brain injuries such as a concussion. We welcome any new tests that make diagnosis more simple.

The Drawbacks in Using MRIs and CT Scans to Diagnose Brain Injuries

Medical professionals often use computed tomography (CT) scans to combine x-ray images taken from different angles of a patient’s head. This technology uses processing to create cross-sectional slices of bones, blood vessels, and soft tissues inside your body. CT scan images provide more detailed information than standard x-rays.

CT scans are used to diagnose acute brain injury problems that may be life-threatening and require emergent treatment. CT scans are fast and widely available. They are effective at detecting bleeding within and around the brain (hematoma) as well as brain swelling (edema). CT scans are also ideal for detecting skull fractures. They are less effective at detecting damage to nerve fibers associated with mild traumatic brain injuries. Nearly 30 percent of patients in a recent study who received a negative CT scan showed signs of a traumatic brain injury when doctors later performed an MRI scan.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an advanced diagnostic tool. It can detect signs of injury such as minute bleeding and small areas of bruising or scarring that a CT scan often misses. Even an MRI may not be able to detect certain brain abnormalities associated with a TBI.

How Blood-Based Biomarkers May Diagnose TBI Patients with Few Symptoms

Researchers at Orlando Health considered how to find sub-concussive injuries with no symptoms and brain injuries that develop over time with repeated blows to the head.

The latest study includes more than 700 emergency room patients, both adults, and children. The study moves closer to developing a standard blood test to spot these injuries as soon as possible.

Linda Papa, MD, lead author of the study and emergency medicine doctor at Orlando Health, said:

"A unique feature of this study is that it includes patients who hit their heads but have no symptoms. This group is rarely -- if ever -- included in biomarker studies."

The TRACK-TBI study is one of the largest concussion studies of its kind. It followed a comprehensive study led by the University of California in San Francisco. Funding from the study was provided by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke as well as the U.S. Department of Defense.

The search for a new test to fastback diagnosis of mild traumatic brain injuries may prove beneficial to veterans of military conflicts as well as car accident and sporting accident victims.

The TRACK-TBI study found that among the 90 people with the highest traces of the brain-specific protein, 64 percent were found to have a traumatic brain injury by the MRI scan. For the 90 people with the lowest levels of protein, about 8 percent were found to have an injury.

Tests using the blood-based biomarkers could be used to highlight which group of people should receive further MRI screenings to detect a mild traumatic brain injury.

The study used the blood analyzer device called i-STAT Alinity made by the company Abbott. It is available in other countries but not yet commercially sold in the United States.

Talk to a Virginia Trial Lawyer About a Traumatic Brain Injury

At the Smith Law Center, we have a long track record in representing people who suffered traumatic brain injuries in accidents. Attorney Stephen Smith was a pioneer of these kinds of cases. Please call us for a free consultation as soon as possible at (757) 244-7000.

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