Diagnosing Brain Injury with a Blood Test

2015-0731 Blood Test

The information below is an excerpt of a news release by Johns Hopkins University.

A new blood test could help emergency room doctors quickly diagnose traumatic brain injury and determine its severity. The findings, published in the Journal of Neurotrauma, could help identify patients who might benefit from extra therapy or experimental treatments.

“Compared to other proteins that have been measured in traumatic brain injury, BDNF does a much better job of predicting outcomes,” says Frederick Korley, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and first author of the new paper.

After a hit to the head or rapid whiplash, whether from a car crash, athletic event or other accident, millions of Americans develop traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) each year. TBIs can range from mild concussions — causing only a headache or temporary blurred vision — to much more severe injuries — causing seizures, confusion, memory and attention problems, muscle weakness, or coma for many months. These symptoms, whether mild or more severe, are generally caused by damaged brain cells.

Until now, most physicians have relied on CT scans and patients’ symptoms to determine whether to send them home and have them resume their usual activities or take extra precautions. However, CT scans can only detect bleeding in the brain, not damage to brain cells, which can happen without bleeding.

“A typical situation is that someone comes to the emergency department with a suspected TBI, we get a CT scan, and if the scan shows no bleeding, we send the patient home,” says Korley. “However, these patients go home and continue having headaches, difficulty concentrating and memory problems, and they can’t figure out why they are having these symptoms after doctors told them everything was fine.”

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Credits

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Thanks to Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine for conducting the study and publishing the results; EurkAlert for publishing the Johns Hopkins press release; Google for helping me find the article; and all the people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible for me to include the picture and text in this post.

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