Finally, A Blood Test for Traumatic Brain Injury

5 out of 10 concussions go undetected. Quicker detection leads to quicker recovery. 

Finally, A Blood Test for Traumatic Brain Injury
Products and Innovation | Jan. 22, 2021

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI), including concussions, are common, and not only within the sports world. An estimated 4.8 million emergency room visits per year can be attributed to TBIs, and roughly 40% of all concussions are caused by slips and falls.

However, there has never been an objective method of assessing patients suspected to have sustained these invisible injuries—until now.

The main hurdle to recovery is that these injuries are often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Previously, concussions and TBIs have been evaluated through methods such as CT scan, patient questionnaire, or a neurological exam, which, in some cases, are not empirical on their own. For a condition that impacts millions annually and poses short-term risk, long-term risk, and even death—objective testing used in tandem with these methods is crucial.

The first rapid handheld objective blood test for concussions

Our i-STAT™ Alinity™ TBI plasma test is the first rapid handheld traumatic brain injury (TBI) blood test, which will help clinicians assess individuals with suspected mild TBIs, including concussions. Tests results are available within 15 minutes after plasma is placed in the test cartridge.

TBIs, including concussions, refer to an alteration in brain function, caused by an external force. This test measures specific proteins present in the blood after a TBI. A negative result on this test can be used to rule out the need for a head CT scan, a common tool used to evaluate concussion. For those who test positive, this test result complements CT scans to help clinicians evaluate whether someone has a TBI.

Time is of the essence during the pandemic

Avoiding the hospital altogether, or getting in and out as quickly as possible, is top of mind for most people during the COVID-19 era. Especially as hospitals near or are at capacity. And even though concussions from sporting events are on the decline, slips and falls are still occurring, which means there is still a need for concussion diagnosis and treatment. When hospital stay time is of the essence, having a TBI blood test available could help eliminate wait time in the emergency room and could reduce the number of unnecessary CT scans by up to 40%. Rapid diagnostic devices like i-STAT Alinity allow healthcare workers to triage patients with traumatic brain injuries faster.

We are also working on a whole blood test, which would eliminate the need for separation of plasma and could be used at the patient’s side in a healthcare setting. Our vision for the future is that we’d have a 15-minute, portable test that can be used outside the traditional healthcare setting where people experience head injuries and need a quick evaluation, like sporting events.

The TBI blood test was developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) – which has been dedicated to developing a solution for the objective detection and evaluation of TBI for more than a decade. The DoD, through U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command’s (USAMRDC) U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity (USAMMDA), played a critical role in developing the test run on Abbott’s i-STAT Alinity platform. The Transforming Research and Clinical Knowledge in Traumatic Brain Injury (TRACK-TBI) research team were the first to demonstrate how this TBI blood test can be used for the benefit of TBI patients in clinical care.