New Concussion Blood Test: Your Questions Answered
The Food and Drug Administration has approved a blood test that can detect concussions.
Concerns about concussions in athletes and wounded soldiers who experience head trauma have escalated in recent years, and the test, called the Banyan Brain Trauma Indicator, was lauded as an important step in rapid diagnosis.
Here is the reaction of Thomas Watanabe, MD, clinical director of the Drucker Brain Injury Center and director of the Stroke Center at MossRehab.
“The availability of a blood test to help diagnose concussions would be very helpful. Designing such a test can be very challenging. Is the marker specific enough that there are no other injuries or diseases that can also cause elevated test results? It would also be difficult to decide how to use such a test. Could a cut-off score be determined with enough confidence that we would ‘know’ whether someone had a concussion or not?
“The (New York Times) article suggests that the test may be most useful for determining whether a CAT scan of the brain is needed. That would be helpful as CAT scans do expose people to radiation. However, CAT scans are generally not used to diagnose concussions. Rather, they diagnose more severe form of brain injury. Because of that, CAT scans are usually not ordered in cases of suspected concussions. This may limit the usefulness of this new test initially, although I anticipate that there will be efforts to expand use.
“This report is encouraging but it seems that there are more questions that need to be answered regarding the role of this test in concussion evaluation. At this time, a thorough clinical examination is still essential to diagnosing a concussion.”