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Blood test to detect brain injury?

October 5, 2012 by Steven M. Gursten

I serve on the executive board of the traumatic brain injury lawyer group of the American Association for Justice, and lately there has been a lot of talk and e-mails about something that seems more like science fiction than reality – a blood test to detect brain injury.  An article in PopSci magazine is just one of dozens that have appeared on the subject.

But, an actual blood test to detect concussion and traumatic brain injury (TBI)?  Could it really be true?

The greatest challenge for lawyers and victims of concussion and TBI is that so many of these very serious and sometimes life threatening injuries are completely missed by emergency rooms.  Symptoms and complaints may not show up for weeks, or even months after a car accident. Compounding the problem is that brain injury is very difficult to detect (and prove), and  symptoms can worsen over time. MRIs and CT scans can and often do show up as “normal” in these cases, even when victims have very serious impairments.

Last week, I wrote about the importance of DTI (a form of MRI), that does a better job detecting traumatic brain injury than traditional imaging.

According to The Concussion Test in PopSci, by Laura Geggel:

Every year, as many as 300,000 Americans with traumatic brain injuries go undiagnosed, often because they brush offtheir symptoms or because nothing unusual appears on CT scans of their brains. Without a diagnosis, people risk getting another concussion on top of the one they already have, increasing the chance of complications such as coma and death. But a new blood test could spot a brain injury within a few hours, enabling people to take time off to recover properly. After an injury, proteins usually found in the brain can leak into the blood. The test, from Banyan Biomarkers in Florida, detects two such proteins: UCH-Ll and CFAP, which correlate with the severity of the trauma. The company plans to begin a 1,650-person trial later this year.

Each year in the U.S., 1.7 million people will sustain a brain injury. And auto accidents are the second-leading cause of traumatic brain injury, according to the Brain Injury Association of America.

If we could detect TBI and concussion with a simple blood test, so many people could get early medical treatment and intervention.

Insurance companies and defense lawyers who wrongfully defend legitimate brain injury cases in the courtrooms of America by attacking victims for this gap of time in diagnosis would also lose out on their most perniciously evil (and most successful) attack theme.  The claims adjusters who categorically deny medical treatment for people with brain injury just because it isn’t diagnosed in ER records would no longer be able to deny these claims if people injured in car accidents are given a blood test for brain injury in ambulances or shortly afterward in emergency rooms.

Now that’s one big-time positive from where I sit.

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