Scientists find new blood test that predicts prognosis for traumatic brain injuries

A new blood test has been found by the John Hopkins University School of Medicine that could help emergency room doctors quickly diagnose traumatic brain injury and determine its severity. This could help identify patients who might benefit from extra therapy or experimental treatments.

  Traumatic brain injuries can range from mild concussions to much more severe injuries, causing seizures, confusion, memory and attention problems, muscle weakness, or coma for many months. These symptoms are generally caused by damaged brain cells. Until now, most doctors have relied on CAT scans (using X-rays) and patients’ symptoms to determine whether to keep them in hospital or take extra precautions. However, CAT scans are limited in that they can only detect bleeding in the brain, not damage to brain cells, which can happen without bleeding. This can mean that patients get sent home when they should still be receiving treatment, and may experience further problems at home such as headaches and memory problems. Doctors now have found a protein which plays a role in brain cell activity. They found that healthy people had significantly higher levels of this protein than people with brain injury. Brain injury patients with higher levels of this protein were more likely to have recovered from their injuries six months later, while patients with lower levels still had symptoms which lingered at a follow-up. This therefore suggests that a test for levels of this protein, given in the emergency room in the form of a blood test, could help doctors to predict prognosis early on.
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