Armed Forces News

Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Margaret Swanberg, of Montgomery Village, Md., tests the basic motor functions of Army Spc. Michael Woywood, of San Antonio, during a military acute concussion evaluation demonstration at Forward Operating Base Hammer, Iraq, July 18, 2008. (Army photo by Pfc. Michael Schuch, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division)

The Army has received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to field a blood test that can quickly assess the extent of traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Early detection of TBI (most concussions can be considered mild TBIs) could mean that thousands of soldiers would get the treatment they need much sooner than before, thus increasing the chances for better recovery. More than 400,000 service members sustained TBI between 2000 and 2019, largely due to combat injuries, training accidents and while playing sports. As such, the Pentagon has sought development of such a test for at least a decade.

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“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,” said Army Brig. Gen. Michael Talley, head of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

The new test is known as the Abbot i-STAT Alinity Traumatic Brain Injury Plasma assay. It works by identifying two brain-specific protein markers that show up quickly in the bloodstream after a TBI occurs. It reduces or eliminates the need for immediate guesswork on the part of combat medics and emergency care providers, and reduces the need for CT (computed tomography) scans. Health officials plan to use the test initially as an assistance tool for patients suspected of having a traumatic brain injury before they are evacuated. In time, the test would serve as a point-of-care test that can be turned around quickly.