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| January 18, 2021

Abbott Gets FDA Clearance for Rapid Handheld Blood Test for Concussions

Marina Turea

Marina is passionate about all emerging technologies in the healthcare space and love to write about all of them. Marina is passionate about all emerging technologies in the healthcare space and love to write about all of them.

Did you know, that approximately 5 million people visit the ER every year for suspected concussions? What’s more shocking is that about half of all these cases go undiagnosed. That’s because currently, there is no surefire method to determine whether one has a concussion.

This is all set to change though thanks to a new type of blood test developed by Abbott. The test works by detecting proteins and enzymes in the blood that signal brain injury. The blood test was created in a collaborative effort between researchers at Abbot, Hennepin County Medical Center in Minnesota, and the University of Minnesota. 

The blood biomarker test will run on Abbott’s i-STAT Anility technology, which is a revolutionary handheld diagnostic analyzer. The analyzer works by targeting an array of analytes on several cartridges with as little as 2 drops of blood.

Concussions occur when there has been a disturbance in the brain functions due to a blow to the head. Although concussions are primarily associated with athletes, concussions can occur to anyone, anywhere. It may not necessarily be easy to tell when someone is suffering from a concussion. However, there are signs and symptoms that one should keep an eye on.

Some of the most common symptoms of concussion include vomiting, temporary loss of memory, loss of concentration, dizziness, slurred speech, intense headaches, and in some instances, loss of consciousness. Most people that suffer from concussions recover relatively fast within days to weeks.

But sometimes symptoms can go unchecked for weeks or even months. When this happens, the individual may be diagnosed with persistent post-concussion symptoms. When one suffers from persistent post-concussion symptoms, it can make life nearly impossible, which is why the rapid handheld blood test for concussions will make such a huge difference in the treatment and diagnoses of concussions.

Part of the issue with concussions is that unlike a broken leg or a bleeding nose, concussions cannot be seen with the naked eye, making them extremely hard to diagnose. To make things harder, X-rays and other imaging technologies like computerized axial tomography (CAT) scans for the brain also cannot detect signs of concussions.

In some instances, concussions that sometimes cause bleeding in the brain can be detected using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). But most doctors will not order an MRI for concussion unless they suspect a life-threatening issue such as major bleeding or swelling in the brain.

To diagnose concussions, most healthcare professionals are usually forced to rely on the symptoms reported by the patient or any other abnormalities that may come up such as problems with one’s memory.

Faster diagnoses of concussions have been necessary for a long time. 

There have always been concussion tests that are done to assess the function of the brain after a head injury occurs. The most common type of test is referred to as a baseline test is commonly utilized among athletes. The baseline test is done before the start of the sports season to measure normal brain function. 

When a player sustains an injury, the baseline results are compared with the concussion tests that are done after the injury. This is what helps sports doctors determine if a concussion has caused serious problems or not. A blood test to test concussions hasn’t been available until now.

The FDA approving the Brain Trauma Indicator for use on adults suffering from concussions couldn’t have come at a better time. The Brain Trauma Indicator measures specific proteins that are released into the blood within 12 hours of a brain injury to demonstrate the seriousness of the injury. It takes 15 minutes for the test results to come back.

Because the rapid handheld blood test for concussions is so efficient, the test will help to avoid unnecessary imagining scans, saving patients thousands in medical costs. Most importantly, the rapid blood test will allow sufferers to receive the treatment they need before the condition worsens.

Having these sensitive tools and systems that will provide doctors with real-time objective information will help to considerably enhance the accuracy of detecting traumatic brain injuries of all shapes and sizes. CT scans have been doing well, but even they can be inconsistent when it comes to providing results.

CT scans don’t always show concussions or other such brain injuries that involve bleeding or swelling. MRI machines are a little more sensitive to such injuries but hospitals these days are understaffed and underequipped and not many have access to such technology. Even in hospitals that have access to these machines, the readout is usually slow and it is usually some time before both the doctor in charge and the patient receive the results.

Abbot has been eager to get the i-STAT Alinity handheld blood testing system for some time now (almost 4 years) so this FDA approval will help fill the urgent need fast. This technology will not only prove useful for concussions but all sorts of brain injuries will now be assessed quickly so that healthcare professionals can determine whether a person needs additional treatment or more careful testing.

This technology is already being applied to military service members. Abbott began using this technology alongside the US Department of Defense in 2014. When you take a closer look at other sectors of medicine, you’ll come across all sorts of different tests. 

But the field of traumatic brain injury hasn’t always been so lucky. Thankfully, however, we live in an age of technology where research and development are accelerating at an alarming rate, much to the delight of everyone involved. 

 

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Final Thoughts

For individuals suffering from suspected traumatic brain injuries like concussions, quick evaluations and treatment have always been imperative. However, the tests that can provide the quick and accurate results needed to make a correct diagnosis have always proven elusive, until now.

The test will revolutionize concussion care thus ensuring that patients suffering from concussions are properly taken care of. In particular, the Abbott rapid handheld blood test will fill the gaps that exist when it comes to undiagnosed concussions.


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