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New Computer Tools Aid In Diagnosing Concussions

How can you tell if a person has suffered a concussion after a fall or blow to the head? It's not always easy. A doctor must administer an array of tests to measure a person's cognitive abilities, such as memory, reaction time and word skills. The doctor may also order a CT scan or MRI to see if there is any internal bleeding in the cranial cavity.

Now there are two additional tools that doctors can use to evaluate a person's cognitive abilities.

Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two computer devices that can help doctors assess the cognitive function of people who are suspected of having sustained concussions:

Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) - This is a software program that runs on a laptop or desktop PC that can measure a person's cognitive abilities. It is designed for people aged 12 to 59.

ImPACT Pediatric - This program runs on an iPad and is designed for children aged 5 to 11.

In its press release, the FDA stresses that the two software programs cannot in themselves diagnose the existence of a concussion. Rather, the software tools should be used in conjunction with other methods to evaluate a person's cognitive abilities.

Extensively Tested In The Lab And The Field

The developer of the products, ImPACT Applications, Inc. in Pittsburgh, has conducted extensive tests of the software programs since 2006. More than 7.5 million people have taken the ImPACT test. In its application to the FDA, the company submitted more than 250 peer-reviewed articles concerning the efficacy of the ImPACT products. The company notes that the ImPACT program measures critical cognitive functions such as attention span, working memory, sustained and selective attention time, non-verbal problem solving, and reaction time. It records the current severity of over 22 concussion symptoms on the 7-point Likert scale.

The science behind the development of the ImPACT products underscores the importance of getting a thorough medical evaluation following a head injury.

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