Brain and Body

Newly Developed Blood Test Can Detect Concussions up to a Week After Head Injuries

March 30, 2016 | Johannes Van Zijl

Linda papa, physician
Photo credit: Orlando Health

This blood test would allow doctors to accurately diagnose patients who suffered a concussion even before any symptoms appear!

It’s estimated that between 1.6 million to 3.8 million people a year suffers a concussion, with high prevalence in many contact sports like rugby, NFL, boxing and MMA. A concussion normally arises from a trauma to the head causing neurological impairments in an individual.

The signs that an individual suffered a concussions are often delayed, especially in children, and symptoms can take a couple of days to settle in. The symptoms may also include a wide variety of things like headaches, nausea, irritability, or even sleep disturbances and loss of appetite. Thus, it is difficult for doctors to reliable diagnose a concussion unless a CT scan is performed on the individual.

Unfortunately, doctors are not able to use CT scans as a diagnostic tool unless a severe head injury occurred because of the harmful effects of radiation associated with CT scans. Now a team of researchers at Orlando Health has developed a simple blood test that can be used instead to detect a concussion.

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Dr. Linda Papa, lead author of the study stated in a news release, “Physicians really want to minimize the amount of CTs in patients, especially children, who are a lot more sensitive to radiation and the side effects that come with that.”


The scientists studied more than 600 patients over a period of three years, focusing on a biological marker, known as GFAP, that’s released into the blood after a brain injury.

“The markers that we are looking at are really specific to the brain and are not released from any other parts of the body, which is what make them so unique,” said Dr. Papa in a video released by Orlando Health.

When compared to the results of CT scans, the blood test was able identify mild to moderate traumatic brain lesions 97 percent of the time in adults. A study Papa conducted last fall showed the test can detect brain injury 94 percent of the time in children.

The new test could be used as a diagnostic tool to spot evidence of a concussion immediately after a head injury, or for up to seven days after, which would certainly help doctors to more accurately diagnose concussions in the future.

The results of the study were published in JAMA Neurology. Watch the video below for more information.


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