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Sunday, October 17, 2010
Army finds simple blood test to identify mild brain trauma
From USA Today: The Army says it has discovered a simple blood test that can diagnose mild traumatic brain damage or concussion, a hard-to-detect injury that can affect young athletes, infants with "shaken baby syndrome" and combat troops.
"This is huge," said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army vice chief of staff.
Army Col. Dallas Hack, who has oversight of the research, says recent data show the blood test, which looks for unique proteins that spill into the blood stream from damaged brain cells, accurately diagnosing mild traumatic brain injury in 34 patients.
Doctors can miss these injuries because the damage does not show up on imaging scans, and symptoms such as headaches or dizziness are ignored or downplayed by the victims.
If the brain is not allowed time to recover and a second concussion occurs, permanent damage may result. Brain injuries afflict 1.4 million Americans each year, says the National Brain Injury Association. Seventy percent are mild cases.
About 300,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered concussions, mostly from roadside bombs, according to a RAND Corp. study.
Hack says the new findings could rival the discovery of unique proteins in the 1970s that now help doctors identify heart disease.
"This will in fact do for brain injury what that test did for chest pain. It's going to change medicine entirely," Hack says.
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