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Concussion blood test is a huge breakthrough

The symptoms of traumatic brain injury vary from person to person, and may be hidden or delayed. The only way to verify brain damage is a CT scan. Which is expensive and involves radiation.

Now the FDA has approved a game-changing blood test that can detect - with a high degree of accuracy - whether a person has suffered a concussion or other brain injury. Aside from the medical benefits, the test could have legal implications.

Concussions can be diagnosed quickly and accurately

The Food and Drug Administration has given the green light to a blood test for concussions. The Banyan Brain Trauma Indicator measures the level of two telltale proteins. If given within 12 hours of a head injury (or suspected head trauma), the test can predict which patients may have potentially deadly intracranial lesions.

In FDA trials, the test was 97 percent accurate in predicting brain lesions on a CT scan - and 99 percent accurate at ruling out lesions. The test could eliminate the need for up to one-third of all CT scans, sparing patients from needless exposure to radiation.

Just as importantly, the blood test - in conjunction with other symptoms and neurological tests -- can aid in prompt diagnosis and treatment of concussion and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Without intervention, a person with an undiagnosed concussion may suffer additional brain damage or longer recovery time. Also, concussions are cumulative. A second head injury while recovering from a prior one can cause permanent damage (Second Injury Syndrome).

Applications For Athletes, Soldiers, Workers

The concussion blood test was developed jointly with the Department of Defense. The Pentagon hopes it will aid timely evaluation of military personnel, especially in war zones. It will be invaluable in all walks of life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are nearly 3 million emergency room visits for traumatic brain injury every year - including about 50,000 who die from aneurysms, hematomas, blood clots and unrelieved brain swelling.

Diagnosing concussions and brain trauma is difficult. There are a wide range of symptoms. A blood test will help many victims of brain injury get treatment, including emergency intervention.

Did the coaches or doctors do enough?

Because of the long-term damage, the NFL developed concussion protocols to identify brain injuries and intervene. But it doesn't always follow the procedures. During the 2017 season, a Houston Texans quarterback was sent back into the game despite TV replays of the player suffering seizure-like spasms and disorientation after a brutal tackle.

With the addition of a blood test, there will be less excuse for misdiagnosis or premature discharge of people with traumatic brain injury. Maybe coaches will be more hesitant to send athletes back onto the field after a blow to the head until a concussion has been medically ruled out. Hopefully workers' comp physicians will not be so quick to clear workers to return to duty. Perhaps it will become standard procedure to run a concussion blood test on all victims of motor vehicle crashes.

If not, and a concussion goes undiagnosed - or worse, the undiagnosed person sustains another head trauma - it may be actionable as medical malpractice or professional negligence.

Source: Concussions Can Be Detected With New Blood Test Approved by F.D.A. (New York Times)

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