New Blood Test Diagnoses Brain Injuries In Patients With Negative CT Scans

Research findings conducted during the Transforming Research and Clinical Knowledge in Traumatic Brain Injury (TRACK-TBI), found a new blood test can detect mild traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) missed by CT scans.

The data was collected from 18 different brain trauma centers in the United States.

“Blood-based biomarkers are emerging as an important tool to detect TBI, and this research opens up the next chapter for how the condition is evaluated,” co-author Geoffrey T. Manley, MD, PhD, principal investigator of the TRACK-TBI study, said in a prepared statement. “Having these sensitive tools could provide physicians more real-time, objective information and improve the accuracy of detecting TBI. This research shows that blood tests have the potential to help physicians triage patients suspected of brain injury quickly and accurately.”

Every year, more than 4.8 million people in the United States are treated in emergency rooms for brain injuries. Currently, doctors conduct a physical exam, conduct a series of questions, and order a CT scan-a reliable marker for detecting brain swelling and trauma.

During the study, 30% of patients with a normal CT scan showed signs of a TBI during an MRI.

MRI scans are not available at every hospital, slower to produce results, and are usually more expensive than CT scans and blood tests. Researchers during the TRACK-TBI evaluated 450 patients in the emergency department of 18 United States Level 1 trauma centers with a suspected TBI who had a negative CT scan and conducted a blood test to find glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) present.

When comparing the blood test to the negative CT scans, the study found that among 90 people who had the highest levels of GFAP that 64% had a confirmed traumatic brain injury. These findings were based on the MRI and blood test results.

The study also found that among the 90 people with the lowest levels of GFAP, only had 8% had a traumatic brain injury.

During a brain injury, the damaged cells in the brain leak into the bloodstream. This is why biomarkers are an effective way to test for TBIs.

The solution used in the blood test to detect GFAP is currently not commercially available in the United States, but is expected to be soon.

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