Our national newspaper, USA Today, wrote a story last week about the U.S. Army “discovering” a simple blood test that can diagnose mild traumatic brain injury. The test is described as a huge breakthrough, a potential “milestone in brain-injury care.”
As someone who has spent their career as an advocate for brain injury victims, I have to say that I’m skeptical about all the early claims, hype and optimism about this new test.
The USA Today story said that this biomarker test, which detects the proteins that are released into the blood stream when the brain sustains damage, correctly identified TBI in 34 patients.
The test would be of special importance to the Army, which is trying to cope with a deluge of soldiers who have sustained concussions and other brain damage in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. An estimated 300,000 troopes serving on those two fronts have suffered concussions, typically from bombs, according to a study cited by USA Today.
For one, I can’t see how this test would be capable of diagnosing the wide spectrum of injury that has come to be known as MTBI. The risk of a supposedly miraculous diagnostic tool is that it creates a new myth of certainty about brain damage.