Doctors Are Using Tablets to More Easily Diagnose Brain Injuries & Concussions

A leading cause of death and permanent debilitation in the United States is traumatic brain injury (TBI). Indeed, about three million emergency room visits each year are related to some form of TBI. Although moderate and severe TBI have the most devastating consequences, mild TBIs like a concussion are much more common. 3 out of 4 TBI reports will involve a concussion.

Even though concussions are comparatively mild to other forms of traumatic brain injury, this does not make them any less problematic. Doctors often struggle to diagnose a concussion and other mild TBIs early since the symptoms are subtle. Someone might just have a dizzy spell or two but show no other immediate symptoms of a concussion. When a diagnosis is delayed, treatment is also delayed, which, in turn, makes a safe recovery less likely for the patient.

To overcome this common time gap between the incident that causes a concussion and actual treatment, research groups are looking at a handheld device that most people own for help: computer tablets. Biomarkers that show a surefire sign of a mild TBI are rare and require extensive and expensive testing to identify. Developing tablet apps might be on the path to positively identifying such biomarkers near-immediately.

The Evidence of TBI is in the Eye

Many people with concussions struggle to focus on small, rapidly moving objects. When successfully tracking such objects, a patient will demonstrate predictable saccadic movements. A mild TBI will slow down or completely eliminate these saccadic movements and serve as a biomarker of a brain injury.

The application software being developed to be used on a typical tablet, or even certain smartphones, will attempt to spot lacking saccadic movement by fixating on the patient’s eye and studying its motion using complex algorithms. The software needs to be smarter and faster than the world’s best optometrist since saccadic movements, for the most part, are too quick for the human eye to detect. In a test that started with baseline eye movements, such tablet-based software has already been relatively successful and promising. The challenge is now finding a way to study saccadic eye movements in patients that have not been prerecorded to gain baseline samples. This would allow the app to be downloaded by doctors all around the world who could then use it to readily diagnose potential concussion patients.

Technological Progress is Promising

Researchers are nothing if not innovative. While the previous application tests were hitting a snag due to the missing baseline test, one app being developed for Apple devices might have already found a way around the problem. The software asks the user to focus on a single point and tap it as fast as possible on the tablet’s touch screen. Someone with lacking saccadic eye movements due a concussion would, in theory, respond much slower to the prompts than someone without a mild brain injury. Initial studies show a high rate of diagnosis accuracy with this app.

All in all, the future of brain injury diagnosis and treatment is being improved by tablets and the software geniuses developing applications for them. With current TBI testing methods leaving much to desire and placing too much guesswork in the hands of the doctor, tablet-based methods should increase the number of accurate diagnoses and improve how long it takes to reach that diagnosis. Such improvements could feasibly save thousands of lives each year.

Scarlett Law Group is a San Francisco personal injury law firm devoted to representing people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury due to the negligence or recklessness of a third party. We are keenly interested in TBI diagnosis, prevention, and treatment and regularly discuss important developments like the tablet diagnosis app. Be sure to visit our blog again for more updates. If you need our help with a TBI claim of your own, contact our firm to set up a free consultation with our team.

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