Blood test detects concussions without X-rays

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Today, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permitted marketing of the first blood test evaluating mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), or concussion, in adults. But this is extremely inefficient, given that over 90 percent of people who arrive in emergency departments with head injuries return negative CT scans.

Patients with a positive test would need a CT scan to confirm the results and determine if surgery or other treatment is needed.

After deliberations that took less than six months, the FDA approved the marketing of the Banyan Brain Trauma Indicator to aid the evaluation of concussions in adults.

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While the blood test can not now detect concussions conclusively, it does allow doctors to scan brain cells for proteins that indicate brain bleeding and other neurological injuries after a blow to the head, the Associated Press reported. But Henry L. Nordhoff, chairman and chief executive officer of San Diego-based Banyan Biomarkers, told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that his company is working with the Defense Department to shorten that turnaround time to under an hour.

Because Banyan BTI is the first blood test for brain injury that the FDA has approved for sale, its approval creates a new classification for these types of diagnostics. They compared the blood test's performance in predicting the need for a CT scan with actual CT scan results. He was not involved in the development of the test. "In addition, availability of a blood test for mTBI/concussion will likely reduce the CT scans performed on patients with concussion each year, potentially saving our health care system the cost of often unnecessary neuroimaging tests".

It's also unknown how this test can determine subconcussive hits, "hits that don't cause symptoms but do cause a brain injury", he explained.

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Crucially, the approval is a major step towards developing and approving more technology as researchers race to find ways to diagnose CTE, a neurodegenerative disease linked to head clashes, during life.

In fact, Banyan has partnered with another company, Quanterix, to help develop a test that could eventually detect the impact of repeated hits.

"The key now is to use this sensitivity to evolve in more brain health and to protect athletes and keep soldiers out of harms way", said Kevin Hrusovsky, president and CEO of Quanterix.

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Traumatic brain injuries contributed to about 2.8 million emergency room visits and almost 50,000 deaths in 2013, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These findings indicate that the test can reliably predict the absence of intracranial lesions and that health care professionals can incorporate this tool into the standard of care for patients to rule out the need for a CT scan in at least one-third of patients who are suspected of having mTBI.

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