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August 26, 2019

Potential blood test can diagnose head trauma better than a CT scan, study shows

The new test checks for biomarkers that reveal subconcussive head trauma, which is typically more difficult to diagnose

There soon could be a new way to diagnose brain injury in head trauma patients, and it involves blood testing for biomarkers that measure the injuries better than a CT scan, a new study claims. 

Brain injuries may be detectable through blood work, the research published in BMJ Paedatrics Open found, by testing two proteins found in the brain: glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and ubiquitin C-terminal hydrolase (UCH-L1). Both proteins get released into the bloodstream after a person sustains an injury.

Researchers examined 712 patients and found those who suffered concussions had the highest levels of both proteins in their blood, while those with nonconcussive head trauma experienced only mild elevations. 

These results indicate that people with nonconcussive head trauma could have sustained a subconcussive brain injury, which can cause long-term damage to the brain even though it may not always cause immediate affects or symptoms. These types of repetitive injuries can lead to Chronic Trauma Encephalopathy – CTE – a progressive degenerative brain disease. 

Typically, CT scans are used to diagnose concussions by revealing lesions on the brain. Subconcussive head injuries do not always result in lesions but can still cause long-term damage. This new blood test could help doctors diagnose subconcussive trauma.

Researchers used the two proteins to detect concussions in children and adult trauma patients in three trauma centers in the U.S.

Patients of all ages were treated, with or without head trauma, within four hours after the patients' injuries, and the injuries were put into one of three categories: those with concussions from head trauma, non-concussive head trauma, and those with only body trauma and no head trauma or concussion. 

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