Scientists developed a new blood test for concussion that can help avoid radiation-exposing scans. This new method can detect a biomarker that is released during brain injury.

The research team from the Florida-based Orlando Health said that the biomarker can stay in the person's bloodstream for up to seven days. This new method can easily detect concussion even in patients who experience delayed symptoms.

The biomarker is called the glial fibrillary acidic protein, which passes through the blood-brain barrier and gets released into the bloodstream during brain injury.

For the study, the team studied almost 600 patients in the span of three years. Among the adult participants, they found that a simple blood test can detect traumatic brain lesions (mild to moderate) with a maximum of 97 percent accuracy. The blood test was also able to determine if the patient requires a neurosurgery to save his or her life.

The research team was led by Dr. Linda Papa, Orlando Regional Medical Center's emergency physician and clinical researcher director. The scientists focused on two blood proteins that past studies previously linked to brain injury. Papa and her colleagues extended the research by focusing on how the protein levels change right after a head injury.

"This could ultimately change the way we diagnose concussions, not only in children, but in anyone who sustains a head injury," said Papa.

Papa stressed that minimizing the need for computerized tomography (CT) scans in patients, particularly in children, is important to avoid the side effects. The new blood test method is actually a simple one but looks particularly at the levels of a specific biomarker.

"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," added Papa.

The new blood test for concussion gives doctors a vital tool in accurately diagnosing patients using a specific biomarker. This new method is especially beneficial to the young ones because it takes out the need for radiation-exposing scans and ensures they get proper treatment. Undiagnosed and untreated concussions can lead to long-term conditions.

The study was published in the Jama Neurology journal on March 28. 

Photo: Markus Spiske | Flickr

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