Concussions can be life-threatening as they often go undetected or their symptoms are misdiagnosed. But a group of researchers recently reported that they are close to developing a blood test that can spot concussions within a week after injury.
Doctors have long known about the health risks of concussions, or mild traumatic brain injuries. Children that injure their head are often asked to seek medical attention immediately while adults are required to take some days off.
But detecting concussions is challenging since their symptoms may be taken for less severe conditions. This is why few people rush to their doctor’s office after a head injury even though they experience recurrent headache, confusion, memory loss, vomiting, or fatigue that can last for days.
But in an ER the situation can get even fuzzier, as CT scans can only reveal large injuries and bleeds, allowing minor concussions to go undetected. Furthermore, symptoms can emerge hours or days later after the injury often leading to a poor prognosis.
According to a research paper published early this week in the journal JAMA Neurology a group of scientists said they made great progress in developing a blood test that can detect concussions seven days after the traumatic incident.
The research involved over 600 people admitted to an Orlando Health trauma between 2010-14. Most patients were affected by a head injury, while the rest had other types of injuries such as bone fractures.
Study participants agreed to undergo blood testing at regular intervals over one week since injury. Researchers were interested in monitoring the levels of a biomarker called GFAP. Clinicians often use biomarkers to track the changes in a patients’ body triggered by a disease or injury.
After analyzing the blood samples, researchers found that GFAP levels peaked 20 hours following the traumatic incident, gradually decline after three days, but remained elevated over the next seven days.
Study authors concluded that the biomarker could be used effectively to detect brain trauma and concussions. It could also be a powerful diagnosis tool for patients that dread brain scans or have no symptoms after the brain injury.
Dr. Linda Papa, lead author of the research, noted that medical research has developed blood tests for various diseases that can affect the cardivascular system, kidneys or livers, but there is no blood tests to spot brain trauma.
]“We think this particular test could change that,”
Dr. Papa said.
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