Traumatic Brain Injury
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is conducting research to determine safer and more effective methods to diagnose traumatic brain injuries (TBI), as current technologies have proven insufficient for its formal diagnosis. Until more reliable methods are established, it is vital for potential victims of TBI to be aware of the injury’s causes and symptoms and to know what can be done to prevent further damage.
TBI results from head injuries in which a sudden movement of the head causes the brain to bounce or twist in the skull, damaging brain cells both physically and chemically. It is important to note that only some head injuries result in TBI, and those that do can cause injury ranging from mild to severe. Symptoms of mild TBI—of which concussions comprise 75%—include headache, confusion, blurred vision, and behavioral changes. Moderate to severe TBI, meanwhile, can cause repeated vomiting or nausea, slurred speech, weakness in the arms or legs, or problems with thinking abilities. TBI can happen to anyone, but children and the elderly are particularly susceptible.
Currently, cases of potential TBI are first assessed by conducting a neurological exam, which evaluates thinking, motor function, sensory function, coordination, and reflexes. This exam is then followed by imaging tests such as computerized tomography scans (CT scans) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests. While these tests do not formally diagnose TBI, they can enable physicians to rule out life-threatening brain injury. Health care providers may also use other FDA-regulated devices when assessing or managing a head injury, but none of these devices is meant to be used in place of an imaging test or judgment of the physician. Timely diagnosis of TBI is critical to prevent repetitive injury–which carries the risk of “second impact syndrome.” If someone who has not recovered from a head injury undergoes a second head injury, it can exacerbate their case of TBI or even lead to death.
Unfortunately, there are still no standalone FDA-approved medical products or procedures that can specifically and formally diagnose TBI. The FDA is therefore continuing its research to find safer, more effective, and more sensitive ways to diagnose TBI. They are working with the research and clinical community to carry out clinical studies that will aid in the development of new medical products. The FDA is also studying TBI biomarkers (measurable, biological indicators of a particular state or condition), and investigating the use of new portable imaging devices to detect mild TBI. Moreover, FDA scientists are conducting research with patients at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, many of whom are victims of TBI.
Brain damage is largely irreversible, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, but it is crucial for patients to seek professional to stabilize their injury and prevent long-term complications that can result from TBI. Until the FDA determines a formal and decisive procedure for detecting TBI, some cases of TBI may go undiagnosed and untreated. We thus advise that, if you have any questions relating to TBI or if you or someone you know is experiencing any signs of mild, moderate or severe TBI, please consult your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Our office handles cases for people suffering from Traumatic Brain Injuries.