New York personal injury lawyers like me welcome this news: The Food and Drug Administration recently approved a new kind of blood test that can detect concussions and identify possible brain injuries. It’s called the “Banyan Brain Trauma Indicator” (“BBTI”). The test works by measuring the levels of proteins, known as UCH-L1, and GFAP, that a damaged brain releases into the blood. Higher levels of these blood proteins indicate intracranial lesions.
There are several advantages of BBTI over traditional CT scans (which is how brain lesions at present are usually detected). First, the blood test does not expose the brain to radiation as a CT scan does. Second, the blood test will make for a speedier diagnosis of a brain injury. But my hope is that the test will one day also be used to detect small lesions that today’s CT scans cannot detect.
Why is this last thing important?
One of the challenges of representing victims of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) is that the available imaging technology for detecting small brain lesions is of poor quality. Sure, big lesions to the brain show up. But micro-tears and damage do not. Although such damage is physically minute, the actual consequences to the victim can be huge, causing life-altering changes to the victim and his or her family.
“Post concussive syndrome” (PCS) can occur at different times, sometimes appearing instantly and other times showing up hours or even days after the blow to the head. Symptoms also vary from person to person. Some experience sensitivity to noise, others blurred vision, others loss of balance, others sensitive to light, and many experience all of these things, plus headaches, irritability and even personality changes.
Even though these symptoms are real for the victim and his or her family and friends, and can be life-altering, often there is no readily available imaging device that can “see” the micro brain damage. Insurance companies and their teams of lawyers exploit this diagnostic shortcoming to paint a picture of a malingering, dishonest plaintiff who is knocking on the Courthouse door to pocket money for symptoms that do not exist.
A blood test that could detect the micro-lesions to the brain would be a godsend to many victims of concussions. Let’s hope the BBTI technology continues to improve until, one day, a simple blood test will show life-altering brain damage that today’s CT scans cannot.