Blood Test to Flag Concussions? Army Says Yes


Hack said that the Army has already ordered prototypes of handheld devices that would involve a pin prick to get similar information and could be used in the field.

"We obviously have to do significant clinical trials and get this to the [Food and Drug Administration] so they can approve it," he said.

Experts contacted by ABC News differed in their opinions on the Banyan-Army study.

Experts Opine on Banyan Research

"Banyan Biomarkers has identified some novel biomarkers in CSF (cerebral spinal fluid) and blood that show promise for enhancing the predictive capability as compared to prior biomarkers," said Dr. Alan Faden, director of the Center for Shock, Trauma and Anestesiology Research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, in an e-mail to ABC News. "But at present there are insufficient data to support the 'hype' expressed by Col. Hack."

"For mild traumatic brain injury or concussion, which represents approximately 90 percent of all traumatic brain injury severity ... the jury is still out," said Dr. Jamshid Ghajar, neurosurgeon and president of the Brain Trauma Foundation. "The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) published mild traumatic brain injury guidelines ... in 2008 and evaluated the literature for biomarkers to ascertain whether a concussion patient should get a CT scan. The question asked was if the biomarker could predict which concussion patient had an abnormal CT scan. There was not sufficient evidence to make that recommendation."

"It should be emphasized that this research is very preliminary," said Dr. Allen Brown, associate professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "The clinical definition of 'mild' brain injury has not been sufficiently established."

However, Robert Stern, an associate professor of neurology at Boston University, said Banyan's research held great promise for the early and immediate detection and diagnosis of traumatic brain injury for service members.

"The assessment of biomarkers through a blood test is definitely a feasible and meaningful method of accomplishing this," he said.

Gerald Grant, a Duke neurosurgeon, said the potential value of the test was tremendous. "This is kind of our holy grail," he said. "We really want a biomarker or a series of biomarkers ... that can be very sensitive to pick up these injuries."

A much larger study, funded by the U.S. Defense Department, is expected to begin next year. It will involve 1,200 patients at 30 trauma centers around the country.

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