After years of working with traumatic brain injury cases, I’ve often talked about the need for a test that will accurately diagnose concussions and other various levels of brain damage. Now it looks like one may actually be coming in the near future.
The Wall Street Journal Tuesday wrote about the new test, saying, “researchers are close to identifying so-called biomarkers that may soon make it possible to pinpoint brain injuries with a simple blood test.”
The U.S. Department of Defense is expected to ante up $17 million to pay for a study of brain-injury biomarkers in over 1,000 patients at 20 hospitals, according to The Journal. This expansive study will kick off next year and continue for 18 months.
The test aims to find out if biomarkers, the proteins that an injured brain produces, can be used to reliably gauge if there has been brain injury, how bad it is and how it should be treated.
Whether or not a person has really sustained brain injury will impact what The Journal estimated are 1.4 million “athletes, car-crash victims and others in the U.S. who are treated for brain injuries in emergency rooms each year.”
Failing to diagnose a brain injury can have fatal consequences. Take the case of actress of Natasha Richardson, who died last year after a skiing accident because no one understood the seriousness of her injuries.
Diagnosing a brain injury now is hit or miss. It’s done by checking a patient’s heart rate and blood pressure, and then asking about their memory and consciousness. You check a patient’s pupils to see how they react to bright light. You check if a patient still has a sense of smell.
We need more accurates tests than those, and hopefully this major defense department study will the answer in biomarkers.