Could A Blood Test Predict Concussions In Children?

First Posted: Nov 09, 2015 02:49 PM EST

Researchers believe that a blood test may be helpful in determining whether a child has sustained a concussion, as well as determining ithe severity of the problem. 

A new study found that a blood test correctly identified the presence of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) 94 percent of the time. The biomarker in this blood test looks for glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP)--otherwise known as proteins found in glial cells that surround neurons in the brain, researchers say. 

"This could ultimately change the way we diagnose concussions, not only in children, but in anyone who sustains a head injury," said Linda Papa, MD, MSC, an emergency medicine physician and NIH funded researcher at Orlando Health and lead author of the study, in a news release. "We have so many diagnostic blood tests for different parts of the body, like the heart, liver and kidneys, but there's never been a reliable blood test to identify trauma in the brain. We think this test could change that."

During the study, researchers performed CT scans on 152 children in the study while comparing the results of the scans with results from the blood tests. While the CT scans helped to identify which patients suffered visible TBIs, the blood test also detected the symptoms of concussions even when the brain injuries were not visible on CT scans.

As it stands, most children with concussions are diagnosed by symptoms alone. Typically, these are observed via vomitting or balance problems or can be reported by the child through headache, blurred vision or feeling groggy. However, these do not really give doctors an objective indication of the severity of the injury.

CT scans can provide a more definitive profile of the injury, "however, they are expensive and are associated with radiation exposure," concluded Papa. "You really want to minimize the amount of CTs you do to your patients, especially children, who are a lot more sensitive to radiation and the side effects that can come with it."

The study is published in Academic Emergency Medicine

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