Medical device manufacturer Abbott recently received FDA clearance for the first handheld rapid blood test for concussions. This device is portable, provides information in 15 minutes, and can reduce the number of unnecessary CT scans for victims of head and brain injuries. Medical professionals and experts are hoping this new diagnostic tool will help save lives and allow more injured people to get proper treatment.
The test requires a small blood sample from the patient’s arm. The device, called the i-STATTM AlinityTM, analyzes the blood for two biomarkers associated with TBI called UCH-L1 and GFAP. These two proteins typically become elevated in individuals who have experienced head injuries or concussions. A negative test can rule out needing a CT scan; a positive test can mean a patient will need a CT scan to confirm that they do have a TBI. Patients with a positive test will need further medical intervention.
“Healthcare providers have been waiting for a blood test for the brain and now we have one,” said Beth McQuiston, M.D., medical director for Abbott’s diagnostics business in a press release. “You can’t treat what you don’t know and now physicians will be equipped with critical, objective information that will help them provide the best care possible, allowing patients to take steps to recover, prevent reinjury and get back to doing the things they care about most.”
What is traumatic brain injury?
Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, typically occurs from a sudden jolt or blow to the head. A penetrating wound to the skull can also cause TBI. Head and brain injuries can happen from car accidents, sports injuries, violence and assaults, and military combat. Because many symptoms of TBI do not show up until hours or even days after the initial injury, the i-STAT test may be able to assist health professionals in diagnosing serious brain injuries more quickly – allowing patients to get rapid intervention and potentially heal more quickly.
“Evaluating brain injuries is complex – and research shows that we only catch about half of those who show up to the hospital with a suspected TBI,” said Geoffrey Manley, MD, PhD, vice chair of neurological surgery at the University of California, San Francisco in the statement from Abbott. “And beyond those who go to the hospital for a suspected TBI, many more never do. A test like this could encourage more people to get tested after a head trauma, which is important because not receiving a diagnosis can be dangerous and may prevent people from taking the necessary steps to recover safely.”
Abbott’s current test relies on plasma, which requires a centrifuge, but they are currently working on a device that uses whole blood. This means the test could be used outside of medical settings, such as out in the field, in an ambulance, or during sporting events, right when an injury occurs.
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