Is There a Test to Help Assess Concussion?

New lab-based concussion test options can help evaluate when a mild traumatic brain injury is suspected. Here’s what to know.

Diagnostics Testing|Jul.18, 2023

Concussions happen more often than you think. They can happen anywhere, and they don’t just happen during sports. Most concussions occur when people slip and fall during the activities of everyday life.

Even so, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a bump on the head and a concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). Some of the current methods for evaluating a concussion can lead to more questions than answers.

Fortunately, there are lab-based concussion tests that can help bring some clarity to the process.

Abbott’s concussion blood tests – on its Alinity i and i-STAT Alinity instruments – measure two biomarkers that are released into the bloodstream when the brain is injured*. They can help doctors better evaluate someone that may have suffered a concussion and help to rule out the need for a head CT scan when there is an absence of these biomarkers in someone’s blood.

The Alinity i TBI test received U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance in March. It is the first commercially available core laboratory traumatic brain injury blood test, which could become widely available in hospital emergency rooms across the United States. The test complements Abbott's i-STAT TBI Plasma test, the first rapid, blood test for concussion on a portable instrument, which the FDA also cleared. The first hospital to adopt one of Abbott’s concussion blood tests in its ERs was Tampa General Hospital in Florida.

How Do I Get Tested when Concussion is suspected?

Getting a blood test to help assess a concussion is simple. Blood is drawn from your arm, the sample is processed in the lab and then the test is run using the Alinity i or i-STAT Alinity, with results in 15 or 18 minutes, respectively. The absence of brain injury biomarkers gives doctors more information about whether your brain may be injured. This can help them determine the best next steps for care and a treatment plan.

How Do Concussion Assessment Tests Work?

For decades, standard concussion assessment has stayed the same, with doctors leveraging the Glasgow Coma Scale, a subjective doctor assessment (think: “how many fingers am I holding up?,” “follow the light,” “make a fist”), and CT scans to detect brain bleeds or other visible damage.

We worked with scientists, researchers and doctors for more than a decade to find an objective assessment to complement methods like the above. We focused on measuring the best clues our bodies provide when the brain is injured. Our blood test technology does just that, and now doctors have a new tool to help evaluate the need for a head CT scan in a person who may have suffered a concussion.

Our tests measure two biomarkers in the blood that are released when the brain is injured:Ubiquitin C-terminal Hydrolase L1 (UCH-L1) and Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein (GFAP). In elevated concentrations, both are commonly associated with brain injury.

Should I Get a Possible Concussion Checked Out?

It’s best to have your injury checked out by a doctor. And doctors can use the concussion blood tests as a way to help assess your condition and determine the best next steps.

Because of how serious concussions can be if left untreated, you should get tested any time you think you or a loved one may have suffered one.

Keep an eye out for symptoms, some of which can take hours or days to show.

Why Is It Important to Know If I Have a Concussion?

Millions of people in the U.S. suffer a concussion each year, but more than half of people who suspect they have a concussion never get it checked. Ignoring the signs of a concussion can lead to serious health risks and complications. Plus, repeated concussions can have long-term consequences on your health, so it’s important to know if you or a loved one has suffered a concussion.

When in doubt, get it checked out.

*Abbott’s i-STAT TBI Plasma and Alinity i TBI tests aid doctors in evaluating a suspected mild traumatic brain injury (such as a concussion) in people 18 and older within 12 hours of injury and specifically help rule out the need for a head CT scan.