Doctors have traditionally had to rely on a combination of imaging tests, like x-rays and magnetic resonance, experience and guesswork to identify brain injuries. It simply isn’t always obvious whether or not someone has one.
However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken a step that — while not totally taking guesswork out of equation yet — promises to eventually change the way doctors identify brain injuries in the future.
A blood test designed to look for signs of brain injury has finally been granted FDA approval. Made by Banyan Biomarkers, the test looks for two proteins that are normally found inside the brain in the patient’s bloodstream. When a person suffers serious brain trauma, the proteins can end up slipping from the brain into the injury victim’s blood. The test makes it possible to detect those proteins as quickly as 12 hours after an injury.
This will allow doctors to more accurately pinpoint which patients have bleeding on the brain after an injury and which don’t. Currently, it’s often virtually impossible for doctors to tell right away which of their 2 million patients being seen for head injuries are bleeding inside their skulls. That delay wastes precious time that could be used to initiate corrective surgery and treatment.
In addition to making it possible for doctors to begin their work on a brain injury victim sooner, the blood test will reduce the need for radiation-based testing.
The test still won’t diagnose concussions that don’t involve bleeding — which means that it cannot detect every significant brain injury out there. However, patients with a negative test can generally forgo some of the more dangerous tests that are now performed.
Ultimately, researchers hope that gaining FDA approval for this test will open the door to further scientific and medical advances in brain injury cases. The hope is to eventually find hidden bio-markers that will reveal even concussive injuries in a simple, easy manner.
Source: TIME, “FDA Approves First Blood Test to Help Diagnose Brain Injuries,” Lindsey Tanner, Feb. 15, 2018