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Blood Test May Lead to TBI Diagnosis

As researchers and doctors continue searching for innovative methods of diagnosing and treating traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), there is optimism about a new test that not only detects the presence of TBI, but reportedly determines its level of severity as well. According to a report in Psych Central, a research study published in the Journal of Neurotrauma uses protein levels in the blood to diagnose TBIs and determine how severe the injury has become.

The Study Details

The study reportedly involved 300 TBI patients and 150 patients with no signs of brain injury. At the start of the study, the levels of three different proteins were measured and recorded for each participant. Researchers then followed all 450 participants for six months, regularly checking their protein levels.

According to the report, researchers found that the healthy patients averaged 60 nanograms per milliliter of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). By comparison, patients with brain injuries only averaged about 20 nanograms and the most severely injured showed extremely low levels, averaging about 4 nanograms per milliliter. Researchers also concluded that TBI patients with high levels of BDNF were greatly recovered within six months of their injuries. TBI patients with low levels of BDNF reportedly showed little recovery at the end of the six month study.

Applying the Knowledge

Study researchers hope that these findings will lead to the administration of BDNF testing within emergency departments, where patients are first seen following a TBI. Currently, the CT scan and symptom review are the go-to methods of diagnosing an injury. According to the study authors, these methods are inadequate because patients are often sent home without a full understanding about the severity of their injuries.

Frederick Korley, M.D., Ph.D. is an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He is quoted in the article as stating, “”The advantage of being able to predict prognosis early on is that you can advise patients on what to do, recommend whether they need to take time off work or school, and decide whether they need to follow up with a rehab doctor or neurologist.”

According to researchers, more information is necessary to understand the variations in BDNF levels. They reportedly want to know if increased exercise and omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to increase levels of BDNF, can assist in the treatment of TBIs. They also want to study whether monitoring BDNF levels can alert doctors to the success or failure of treatment drugs.

TBIs affect millions of people every year, from mild concussions and headaches to severe cognitive dysfunctions. These injuries can result from sports play, automobile accidents, assaults and a variety of other incidents. When a TBI is caused by the willful or neglectful actions of another, the party at fault can be held financially liable in a court of law with the assistance of an experienced attorney.

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