Blood test detects concussions without X-rays


The test works by measuring levels of proteins, known as UCH-L1 and GFAP, that are released from the brain into blood and measured within 12 hours of head injury.

Those proteins can help doctors predict which patients would benefit from a CT scan to look for lesions on the brain.

Scott Gottlieb, M.D., Commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration said in a statement during the Wednesday's news release that, "Helping to deliver innovative testing technologies that minimize health impacts to patients while still providing accurate and reliable results to inform appropriate evaluation and treatment is an FDA priority".

The test, called the Banyan Brain Trauma Indicator, is also expected to reduce the number of people exposed to radiation through CT scans, or computed tomography scans, that detect brain tissue damage or intracranial lesions.

Due to the frequent brain injuries suffered by the U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, the army representatives declared that the production of blood tests to accurately depict brain trauma within hours are a necessity in conflict zones. A majority of patients with concussion symptoms have a negative CT scan.

The availability of a blood test for concussion will help health care professionals to determine the need for a CT scan in patients suspected of having mTBI, preventing unnecessary neuroimaging and associated radiation exposure.

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In 2013, there were around 2.8 million visits to the emergency room for evaluations of possible concussions, according to statistics from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of these cases, concussion-related head injuries contributed to the deaths of almost 50,000 patients. When the test results come out in four hours, they can then help doctors decide if a CT scan is needed.

Blood test to diagnose concussions quickly will be welcomed in the medical and sports worlds.

Dr. Walter Koroshetz, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and other brain injury experts say the test isn't sensitive enough to rule out concussions. San Diego-based Banyan Biomarkers, which obtained the permission to market the blood test, is also now working with the Defense Department to shorten the turnaround time to under one hour.

Other companies are developing similar blood tests to detect brain injuries.

Patients are now diagnosed with concussion based on a combination of symptoms as well as imaging.

The FDA approved the test as part of its breakthrough devices program after evaluating a clinical study of 1,900 blood samples from people thought to have concussion or mild traumatic brain injury.