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Abbott Labs' handheld traumatic brain injury test

Friday, June 11th, 2021 -- An estimated 4.8 million ER visits are attributed to traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). These injuries are often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, which can pose short-term risks, long-term risks, or even result in death.

To combat this serious issue, Abbott Laboratories partnered with the US Department of Defense to work on a plasma test that can diagnose mild TBIs. The company hopes this test will be used in conjunction with current methods of diagnosis, such as a CT scan or neurological exam, to prevent undiagnosed or misdiagnosed cases of TBIs.

Abbott’s i-STAT TBI plasma test [Source: Abbott]

Abbott’s i-STAT TBI plasma test will be the first rapid TBI blood test and the first one to be handheld. Results for this test will be available 15 minutes after the plasma is put into the test cartridge. The test measures specific proteins present in the blood after a TBI.

A negative test result will allow healthcare workers to rule out unnecessary CT scans or, in positive cases, support findings of CT scans. The test will reduce ER wait times, help ER nurses triage TBI patients, and reduce the number of unnecessary CT scans.

Abbott also hopes that this test will be used outside of hospitals and clinics in situations that require a quick TBI test. Sporting events were cited as one such location.

This innovation has garnered even more interest over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. TBIs appear to be less frequent during the pandemic, but slips and falls still occur. Many patients look to limit ER trips in fear of contracting the virus, which makes this portable TBI test vital.

All in all, Abbott’s new plasma test provides much needed aid to healthcare workers and paves the way for more consistent and convenient TBI diagnosis.


Source: (2021) Finally, A Blood Test for Traumatic Brain Injury. In: Abbott. Accessed 11 Jun 2021


Helpful Definitions

  • Traumatic Brain Injuries: An injury to the brain cause by external (outside) impact or force.

  • Plasma: A clear, yellowish liquid that is found in your blood, making up ~55% of your body's volume. It contains various proteins, blood cells, and other components of your blood.

  • CT (Computed Tomography) scan: a form of medical imaging. It is used to take X-ray images of your body at different angle to display slices (cross-sections) of your bones, vessels, and tissues via computer processing.

  • Triage: a medical term used to describe the categorization of the urgency of wound and illnesses. Each department (ex. critical care, diabetes care, etc.) has a different triage, since it is used by medical professionals to determine the order they must treat patients in the event of an 'overpopulation.'


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