A new blood test has been developed that can identify when a child has experienced a brain injury with 94% accuracy. The test was developed by Orlando Health, a non-profit health care company who recently published a study, in the journal Academy Emergency Medicine.
“The idea is to get a test that could be used on the field to help the coaches, trainers, and athletic directors make a decision then and there about whether the child should go back to play,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Linda Papa, a researcher at Orlando Health. “If we could find a simple test that takes the guess work out of diagnosing these kids, that would completely change the way we approach concussions and would certainly give parents greater peace of mind.”
The test detects the biomarker glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), which helps gauge the severity of the injury. The higher the levels of GFAP that are present in the blood, the more severe the brain injury is, explained Papa. The proteins found in the glial cells that make up GFAP surround neurons in the brain, so when there’s an injury to those particular brain cells, GFAP is released into the blood stream.
Researchers examined CT scans of 257 children, 197 of whom had suffered trauma to the head. Of those children, they administered blood tests and CT scans to 152 children and compared results. The researchers were able to identify with 94% accuracy which children had experienced a brain injury as indicated by the CT scans, plus they were able to tell the severity of the brain injury using the blood test.
“This could ultimately change the way we diagnose concussions, not only in children, but in anyone who sustains a head injury,” Papa said. “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.”
Papa and her research team plan to conduct more studies using the blood test, and hope to have it ready for store shelves within the next five years.
[Photo courtesy of U.S. Army on Flickr]