The Army recently announced that the FDA has approved a rapid blood test that can accurately detect and diagnose traumatic brain injuries (TBI’s) in almost any environment, including on the battlefield. This comes after an almost decade long period of working towards a faster, easier and more reliable way to spot TBI’s and get service members the help they need to ensure appropriate continued care.
When asked about the tests, Army Brig. Gen. Michael J. Talley said, “A rapid test for TBI is a critical addition to our downrange capability to care for the brain health of our most important weapon system, the warfighter, and help maintain a high state of readiness across the Force.”
Over 400,000 TBI’s impacted service members between 2000 and 2019, sustained mainly in combat and training scenarios. Since one of the more accurate ways to diagnose up until this point would be to do imaging of the brain (meaning potentially complicated evacuations of troops to receive medical services), these rapid tests offer a more immediate and potentially safer means of detection.
Another bonus to this test being so much simpler (and hopefully, more readily available) than brain scans is the ability to ensure that service members receive the correct information and diagnoses should they seek out help for symptoms after the sustained injury. When dealing with a TBI, it is not uncommon for someone to develop new or worsening symptoms in the weeks, months, or even years following the trauma.
There is often intersectionality between Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and TBI’s for a few key reasons. Typically, a TBI is sustained as the result of a traumatic event, particularly when looking at combat-related TBI’s, meaning that both physical and emotional trauma are factors.
There is also potential crossover in outward symptoms, such as mood or emotional regulation with memory problems. Particularly when someone is seeking assistance for symptoms years after the fact, it is not uncommon for them to receive a PTSD diagnosis, when they may, in fact, have a traumatic brain injury. Meaning that this new rapid test could not only help overseas, but also those Veterans who may have gone undiagnosed after coming home.
This particular test, the Abbott i-STAT Alinity TBI plasma assay, works by detecting distinct protein markers in the blood that show up following a potential TBI-level head injury. Dr. Krista Caudle, product manager for U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command’s (USAMRDC) Warfighter Brain Health Project Management Office, said:
“Over the years, the program progressed through basic science studies at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and USAMRDC’s Combat Casualty Care Research Program, then into product development and clinical trials in USAMMDA (U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity), and ultimately U.S. FDA clearance.”
Ultimately, this means more efficient and accessible diagnostics for Veterans both in and out of combat scenarios, and the continuing opportunity for service members to receive a higher quality of care.
Feature photo is from U.S. Army