Concussions can often go undetected, which can oftentimes have deadly consequences. But a new blood test developed by a team at Orlando Regional Medical Center could tell whether a head injury is associated with a concussion a week after the incident.
The new tool was tested on 584 patients who were treated at the Level 1 Trauma Center. Half of the patients had head injuries, while the rest had traumatic injuries in other parts of their bodies.
The research team took blood samples from both groups and sought two specific biomarkers dubbed UCH-L1 and GFAP which get released in the system after a head trauma. Biomarkers are often used by clinicians to assess the impact of a disease or injury on a patient’s body.
Participants’ blood was tested every four hours in the first day and every 12 hours over the next six days. Dr. Linda Papa, lead author of the study and ER doctor at Orlando Regional Medical Center, noted that her team had 20 blood draws to analyze for each patient.
Researchers said that GFAP’s peak was recorded 20 hours after the incidents, while the other biomarker had its peak sooner, in eight hours. Researchers found that GFAP was signaling more accurately a mild traumatic injury in the brain than UCH-L1 within a week after the injury.
Study results were confirmed through CT scans, which showed that concussions were associated with higher levels of both UCH-L1 and GFAP. Furthermore, doctors could use GFAP levels to assess the necessity of a surgical intervention within a week after the traumatic incident, while UCH-L1 levels could be put to use just several hours after the injury.
Dr. Papa believes that the new blood test could reduce the number of CT scans dramatically. Additionally, the new tool could help patients who decide to show up in the ER days after the head injury.
Researchers noted that the most common signs of a concussion are headache, memory loss, fatigue, confusion, and dizziness. Dr. Papa also said that 20 percent of people with a head injury don’t go to a professional right away. They eventually visit their doctor’ office when they realize that they still don’t feel well.
The blood test could also be a precious guide to physicians on how to treat their patients with symptoms of concussion, the team also said.
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