Blood Test May Diagnose Traumatic Brain Injury, Study Says

by | Aug 18, 2015

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can often be tricky to diagnose and treat, and outcomes for victims are also difficult to predict. Although the human brain remains much of a mystery to medical science, experts have made significant progress in identifying and treating these serious injuries. According to a recently published study in the Journal of Neurotrauma, a new blood test may even be able to diagnose traumatic brain injuries.

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Until recently, TBI testing methods have relied on CT scans and evaluations of patients’ symptoms to make decisions about having victims refrain from or return to their normal activities. Unfortunately, CT scans fall short because they are only capable of detecting bleeding in the brain, not brain cell damage, which can occur without bleeding.

The pitfalls of this diagnostic system means that many victims who have CT scans that show no bleeding, but in fact experienced brain trauma, could be sent home without treatment or recommendations to avoid activity. In an effort to find better ways to identify TBI, researchers turned to blood tests to see if they could better predict ongoing brain injury-related problems.

Here are some details about the blood test study:

  • Researchers gathered 300 TBI victims and 150 individuals without brain injuries and measured the levels of three proteins suspected to play a role in brain cell activity. Subjects were evaluated for six months.
  • Researchers ultimately found that levels of the protein “brain-derived neurotrophic factor” (BDNF) could predict TBI severity and patient outcomes if evaluated within 24 hours of injury. Patients with TBI on average had less than one-third the amount of BDNF in their blood as compared to a healthy person.
  • The study also noted that patients with higher levels of BDNF often made near-to-full recoveries from TBI after six months, and that patients with lower levels experienced adverse symptoms longer.

The study provides promising insight to help doctors better and more quickly identify TBI, especially if the blood test for BDNF is performed when patients arrive at emergency rooms. The benefits of a quick diagnosis, researchers state, could tremendously improve doctors’ ability to provide adequate treatment, including suggestions about returning to usual activities, and ultimately enable patients to recover faster.

Having represented brain injury victims for many years, our personal injury attorneys are constantly amazed by the developments and progress made in the TBI field. Although new testing and treatment methods help, victims and their families continue to face numerous physical, emotional, and financial setbacks following brain injuries.

If you have questions about your rights following a brain injury, our lawyers have been selected as “preferred attorneys” by the Brain Injury Association of America for the Washington, DC Metropolitan area and are available to help. Contact us today to request a free case evaluation.

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