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Episode 21: Is This New Test A Game Changer For Concussion Diagnosis?

In this episode of Brain Injury Insider, host Michael V. Kaplen discusses a new "rapid" traumatic brain injury blood test from Abbot Laboratories. The test, which has received final FDA approval, is able to diagnose a concussion within 15 minutes.

new brain injury test has been called a game changer by those following concussions and the need for accurate diagnosis.

Abbott Laboratories has received final FDA approval for a blood test that will diagnose a concussion within 15 minutes.

How does this work?

Well, the theory behind the test is quite simple. When a concussion takes place, nerve cells are damaged, and these cells will be releasing chemicals into the bloodstream. The test is designed to pick up these chemicals, similar to tests that are done for people with a suspected cardiac condition.

The test will take 15 minutes, and a positive indication on this test will indicate that an individual had a concussion.

Up until now, concussions have been just a clinical diagnosis, based upon a determination of whether or not an individual lost consciousness, or had an alteration in consciousness, and symptoms that developed soon after that concussion, such as dizziness, headaches, nausea, vomiting, seeing stars.

But there is no uniform definition of what a concussion is. And emergency room departments have been found to miss the diagnosis in over 50 percent of cases.

So this test is really a game changer.

It will allow for more accurate diagnosis of a concussion. And it will eliminate the need for unnecessary CAT scans in the emergency department.

But let's not pretend that a negative blood test should be relied upon by the medical profession to determine that a person did not have a concussion.

Because many individuals now are assuming that this test can be used on the football field, or in other athletic events, to determine whether or not it is safe for a player to return to play.

Well, certainly if this test is positive, there's no doubt about it, you wouldn't want this player to return to play.

But if the test is negative, does that mean it's safe to return the player to the playing field and risk a second concussion?

I don't think so.

Let's be clear that a negative blood test does not mean that a person did not sustain a concussion. Doctors still must rely upon physical symptoms, cognitive complaints, behavioral problems, and emotional difficulties.

Some of these symptoms take days or weeks to develop. They are not apparent on the playing field, and in my opinion, it would be unsafe to return players to play.

So let's give Abbott Laboratories credit where credit is due, and be thankful that this test has been finally approved, which without a doubt is a big step in a diagnosis of concussions.

But let's not let media hype take over the realities. When in doubt, keep them out, must still be the mantra when it comes to concussions and sports, concussion management.

Audio version

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Brain Injury Insider

michael kaplen
Brain Injury Insider is a weekly video update by The Brain Injury Law Firm ®. We cover the latest news and developments in traumatic brain injury, concussion, and brain injury law.