The Future of Research in The Diagnosis of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

man reviewing paperwork

A tremendous number of soldiers are thought to have sustained a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). This number is thought to be even higher, but is difficult to verify because there is not yet an accurate, efficient diagnostic tool for mTBI. The military has therefore made diagnosis of mTBI a research priority-with speed, mobility, and accuracy being of the most concern.

A team of brain injury experts recently gathered to help focus this future of research. The results of their meeting will not only impact the military, but also civilian cases of mTBI. Both military and civilian clinicians could benefit from more accurate and reliable diagnostic tools, and proper treatment and support could be offered to mTBI patients who might have otherwise been misdiagnosed.

Some of the results of the meeting were that:

  1. Given the complex nature of mTBI, one test alone will probably not be sufficient.
  2. For the highest potential accuracy without losing efficiency, a combination of three tests is recommended. Studies should use a structured interview, a detailed neurological assessment, and a biomarker as the gold standard of diagnosis.
  3. The most promising tools for future research include: pupil reaction; postural stability and visual tracking; biomarkers in blood, saliva, or urine, NIRS (near infrared spectroscopy), and EEG or ERP (electroencephalogram and event related potentials).

Marion DW, Curley KC, Schwab K, et al. Proceedings of the Military mTBI Diagnostics Workshop held in St. Pete Beach, August 2010. Journal of Neurotrauma. (March 2011).