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Study Says Blood Test can Diagnose Concussions in Children

Update Date: Nov 09, 2015 04:52 PM EST

Researchers from Orlando Health believe that they might have found a way to diagnose concussions in children via a blood test.

"This could ultimately change the way we diagnose concussions, not only in children, but in anyone who sustains a head injury," said lead author of the study, Linda Papa, MD, MSC, reported by MedicalXpress. "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."

For this study, the researchers recruited 152 children and performed CT scans to look for signs of any brain injuries. Although CT scans can find signs of traumatic brain injuries, they do not always pick up everything. The team then created a blood test to see if the test could be more effective at diagnosing concussions.

After taking blood from the children patients within six hours of their injuries, the researchers were able to find signs of a concussion in 94 percent o the cases.

"This simple blood test was nearly as accurate as a state-of-the-art CT scan," Papa said.

The blood test worked by looking for a biomarker called the glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), which can be found in glial cells. Whenever there is an injury to the Brain, the glial cells release GFAP, which shows up in the bloodstream. The researchers noted that not only did their blood test pick up GFAP and diagnose concussions, it was also able to determine how severe the injury as.

"We were looking at different types of brain lesions detected by the CT scans, ranging from mild to serious injuries, and found that the biomarker we tested for actually corresponded to the injuries," Papa explained. "Levels of the biomarker were lower in mild cases, and were much more elevated in severe case."

Concussions are typically diagnosed via physical symptoms, such as vomiting or difficulty balancing. Although CT scans can detect evidence of a brain injury, they are expensive and they expose children to radiation, which is not always ideal. The researchers noted that this blood test could really be a convenient and safe way to detect and treat concussions faster.

"If there was a simple diagnostic tool like a blood test that can tell us quickly and accurately if a brain injury has occurred, and how severe it might be, that would be ideal," said Papa. "That's what we are striving for with this project."

The researchers will continue working on this blood test with the goal of introducing to the market within the next five years.

The study was published in the journal, Academic Emergency Medicine.

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