Blood Test Claims to Determine Concussion With Higher Accuracy

A team of researchers at the Lawson Health Research Institute discovered a blood test that may be able to detect the presence of a concussion with improved accuracy. The claims are 92 percent accuracy, according to the study in the journal Metabolomics, but we remain highly skeptical of such claims.

blood test for concussion

A blood test may determine if there is a concussion present with about ninety percent accuracy, according to the study. The subjects were adolescent male athletes.

“The significance of the findings is that it takes away the guessing,” Dr. Douglas Fraser, who led the study, said in our interview with him. “It’s less subjective than what we do clinically.”

Editor’s Note: The actual significance of these findings is that it may offer one more tool towards a better protocol for identifying Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. Claims of 92 percent accuracy of something that few experts are in total agreement as to the definition of, are absurd. Further, these type of claims create the risk that they replace good clinical judgement which is key to making the ultimate diagnosis of brain damage.

Dr. Fraser said that they are in talks with a number of companies to create a tabletop machine that will determine the presence or the probability of a concussion with a finger prick.

“We can detect when someone can return to activity,” he added. “[It has] the diagnostic potential but also can aid in rehabilitation and return to activities.”

Concussions can be a serious health problem contrary to popular belief. “Lay people see it as a minor event followed by a rapid and complete recovery,” write the authors of Mild Head Injury: A guide to management. “In fact in the acute stage there is the possibility of life-threatening complications, and later disabling somatic and cognitive problems that may persist and behavioural problems develop.”

While concussions are a serious health problem, they can also be difficult to diagnose. For more detailed information on diagnosing concussions currently, view our blog about the technicalities of diagnosing a mild traumatic brain injury.

In addition to being difficult to diagnose, they are also a fairly common, prevalent injury, especially in sports. About 1.6 to 3.8 million sports- and recreation-related concussions occur in the United States every year, according to the Brain Injury Research Institute.

“Accurate concussion diagnosis is particularly important for adolescents, as rapid deployment of treatment and rehabilitation services could be life-changing,” the study says.

The blood test works by analyzing patterns of metabolites, which are resultant molecules of the body’s metabolic processes. The subjects studied were male adolescent hockey players.

In the study, they compared concussed to non-concussed male adolescents, and found out that the pattern of metabolites uniquely differed. The key is that concussion cannot be determined by any one metabolite; rather, it is a pattern of many. Their work in this study will hopefully help in both predicting the outcome and aiding in the rehabilitation as well.

The test they have developed is relatively quick and inexpensive. The study was published Oct. 28, 2016 in the journal Metabolomics.

“We need to generalize to other populations to see how well it works there,” Dr. Fraser said.

Dr. Fraser hopes that it can help other populations, such as the military. It could possibly differentiate between different kinds of injuries, for example a mechanical concussion versus a blast injury, and sort out the best rehabilitation for the different populations.

This study was supported by the Children’s Health Foundation grant.


Gordon Johnson

Attorney Gordon Johnson is one of the nations leading brain injury advocates. He is Past-Chair of the TBILG, a national group of more than 150 brain injury advocates. He has spoken at numerous brain injury seminars and is the author of some of the most read brain injury web pages on the internet.

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