Annual Tech for Your Health Section
By Lucy Morris
What Is ImPACT?
ImPACT is an FDA-cleared online tool for patients ages 12-59 that tests both baseline and post-injury neurocognitive function. It’s used in concussion care, and it measures verbal and visual memory, reaction time, and processing speed to help physicians identify if a patient can safely return to activity.
When It’s Used
ImPACT is used in numerous capacities. First, it can provide baseline testing to document the healthy brain function of an uninjured test taker. This means that if the test taker faces injury later, there will be initial results to compare against the new results. Baseline testing is often recommended or required by sports organizations at the beginning of the season.
This tool is also used to test neurocognitive function following some sort of impact or trauma and is especially important for concussions that are either difficult to diagnose or that aren’t improving as quickly as most concussions do.
How It Works
Testing with ImPACT is done on the computer and takes approximately 20 minutes. Questions are designed to assess everything from working memory and impulse control to the ability to focus and maintain attention. Test takers will work their way through a series of challenges including colors, numbers, sequences, and more, and they will receive a clinical score report.
In situations where baseline testing wasn’t initially performed, results can be compared to age-matched peers to provide a fuller picture and thus a better-informed treatment plan.
Benefits of ImPACT
Concussions are considered mild traumatic brain injuries and can be dangerous if not treated properly. In general, the symptoms of concussions can be broken down into five categories: physical symptoms like headaches and nausea, sleep problems, mood problems, balance trouble, and cognitive issues like slow processing or memory issues.
ImPACT is a complement to traditional concussion testing protocol and is useful in complicated or unconventional cases. Using the specialized data the tool provides, doctors can make concussion treatment decisions and determine return to activity readiness more quickly. Since experiencing a second concussion before the first has fully healed can cause significant damage, it’s especially important to treat patients appropriately.