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New Diagnostic Criteria for Concussions Unveiled by UBC and Harvard Researchers

Researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, affiliated with Harvard, have made significant progress in establishing a new standard for diagnosing mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), commonly known as concussions. 

This groundbreaking development is the result of a collaborative process led by Dr. Noah Silverberg, Associate Professor in UBC’s Department of Psychology and member of the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health and Centre for Aging SMART at Vancouver Coastal Health.

Mild TBIs can be challenging to diagnose accurately because they often don’t show up on brain scans, and symptoms can be diverse, subtle, and overlapping with other conditions. The lack of consistency in diagnostic criteria has led to inequities in injury management, healthcare access, and compensation for patients. 

To address these challenges, Dr. Silverberg and Dr. Grant Iverson of Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, on behalf of the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine (ACRM), have published a set of new diagnostic criteria in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. The criteria aim to establish a global standard applicable across age groups, health systems, and injury circumstances, including civilian trauma, sports-related injuries, and military contexts.

The development of these criteria involved a working group of 17 ACRM Mild TBI Task Force members and an external panel of 32 clinician-scientists from various fields and countries. The criteria were based on comprehensive syntheses of current research evidence and underwent rigorous revisions until they garnered over 90% agreement from the expert panel.

Unlike previous criteria, the new diagnostic approach incorporates blood tests and assessments of thinking skills, balance, and vision. This comprehensive approach offers a more holistic and accurate diagnosis of TBI, addressing previous limitations.

The researchers plan to present the new diagnostic criteria for concussions at international conferences, collaborate with key partners such as the Concussion in Sport Group and the U.S. Department of Defense, and work towards incorporating the criteria into clinical practice guidelines and accreditation standards for healthcare facilities in the United States and Canada. Ultimately, the goal is to integrate the criteria into electronic medical records, improving patient care and research consistency.

The Brain Injury Help Center is an organization whose mission is to help victims of traumatic brain injury recover and get legal support. If you or a loved one are suffering from brain injury due to an accident, contact the BIHC for a free consultation on getting treatment and claiming compensation. 

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