FDA approves two new tests to diagnose traumatic brain injuries


Concussions are extremely common sports-related injuries that can affect anyone who plays a high contact sport such as football, hockey or soccer. An estimated 1.1 to 1.9 million children ages 18 years old or younger experience sports- and recreation-related concussions in the United States each year, according to a study conducted by Mersine A. Bryan, M.D., from the department of pediatrics at the University of Washington and with the Seattle Children’s Research Institute, and her colleagues.

In addition to sports, car accidents, falls and other types of accidents can lead to bumping, hitting or impacting the head. Brain injuries can range from “mild” to “severe,” and depending on the severity, concussions and other head trauma can lead to symptoms such as memory and attention problems, loss of consciousness and depression. Even when a person does not lose consciousness, mild traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) such as concussions can temporarily and permanently change the way the brain works, including how the person thinks, feels and behaves, according to an article by the Mayo Clinic.

Due to the high prevalence of sports-related head injuries and concussions that occur among young people, coaches, parents and health care providers need to be more aware of head injuries so that children can be better diagnosed, and injuries can be prevented and treated, according to Alan L. Zhang, M.D., a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and associate director of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), Sports Medicine Fellowship program, and his colleagues. Two new medical devices that were recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may help to improve the awareness, evaluation, treatment and management of concussions and other related brain injuries.

FDA approves marketing of two new cognitive tests to diagnose head injury

In the past, physicians have had difficulty evaluating and managing concussions, TBI and other types of head injuries, reported the FDA. Two new medical devices, the Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) and the ImPACT Pediatric, which received FDA approval in August 2016, may help to improve the evaluation and management of such conditions.

The ImPACT software uses a computer or laptop and is approved for people ages 12 to 59 years old. These computerized tools can be used in hospitals, clinics, schools and other settings to evaluate the neurocognitive function of patients suspected of having a concussion and monitor their cognitive changes following a brain injury. The developer of both devices, ImPACT Applications, Inc., reported that more than 7,400 high schools and 1,000 colleges and universities already use this computerized management tool for concussions.

What is the ImPACT Pediatric?

ImPACT Pediatric is specifically designed for children ages 5 to 11 years old. Using an iPad, children receive a comprehensive battery of neurocognitive tests designed to assess different aspects of their cognitive functioning, including their attention, language, memory and processing speed. The battery provides an initial baseline assessment and allows the documentation of symptoms as they are experienced so these can be used by health care providers to assess and monitor the child.

Despite the high prevalence of concussions among children and young people, many people do not visit the emergency room or see a physician after they experience a concussion. A significant blow or hit to the head can affect the function of the brain, so it is important that people are aware of the problems that can result from concussions and other types of brain injury. With the approval of these new medical devices, we may increase knowledge about the prevalence of concussions and TBIs so that more people seek and receive the treatment they need.

White River Academy is an accredited educational institution and therapeutic treatment center in Delta, Utah, for adolescent boys between the ages of 12 and 17 years old. For more information about the White River Academy’s treatment programs, please contact our 24/7 helpline to speak to a member of our team.

About the author

Amanda Habermann, graduated from California Lutheran University, she received her M.S. in clinical psychology with an emphasis in psychiatric rehabilitation. Her master’s thesis was written on “The effect of parental codependency on elementary school children’s social and emotional development,” and her research has been accepted for poster presentations at the Western Psychological Association. She brings to the team her extensive clinical background and skills in psychological testing and assessment, clinical diagnosis, research, and treatment and recovery techniques for patients with mental illness. She is a passionate researcher and enjoys staying up to date on the newest topics in the field. 

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