Is a diagnosis for CTE in living patients in the near future?

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, is a devastating brain disease that affects people who have suffered numerous blows to the head over the course of their lives. The symptoms of this illness resemble Alzheimer’s disease, but sufferers often develop it earlier in life and it cannot be positively diagnosed until the sufferer has died and undergoes an autopsy. For many residents of Ohio and elsewhere, a diagnosis of this brain disease while patients are still alive may make a significant difference in the quality of their lives.

In a recent study published in the medical science journal Neurosurgery, doctors have expressed hope that a brain scan may help make a realistic CTE test available within the next few years. Before his death in 2015, a former NFL football player underwent the experimental scan, and doctors claimed to be able to identify a pattern of proteins called tau, which are present in the brains of those suffering from CTE. The patient was positively diagnosed with CTE after his death.

An accurate test for the disease would be significant, since many people suffer from it – not just football players, but military personnel, boxers and those who have sustained multiple concussions or subconcussive strikes to the head. The disease tends to tear families apart as it progresses, leading to such behaviors as rage, depression, memory problems and thoughts of suicide. It is possible that after a test is developed, further research in living patients may lead to more effective treatment of this tragic disease.

Source: CNN, "Ex-NFL player confirmed as 1st case of CTE in living patient," Nadia Kounang, Nov. 16, 2017

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