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Blood Test Has Potential for Detecting Concussion in Children

Could help reduce number of CT scans and associated radiation exposure

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 11, 2015 (HealthDay News) — A simple blood test may one day be able to detect concussions in children, according to a study published in the November issue of Academic Emergency Medicine.

The blood test measures levels of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), found in cells that surround neurons in the brain. For the study, 152 children with head injuries were given the blood test and underwent computed tomography (CT) scans. Linda Papa, M.D., an emergency medicine physician with Orlando Health in Florida, and colleagues compared the results of the scans with results from the blood test. The blood test was done within six hours after the injury.

CT scans were able to identify patients who had suffered traumatic brain injuries; however, the blood test detected symptoms of concussions even when brain injuries were not visible on the CT scan, Papa told HealthDay. The blood test was also able to give doctors an idea of how severe the brain injury was, she said. Levels of GFAP were lower in mild cases, but were much higher in severe cases, she added.

Papa hopes to develop a mobile test that could be given when and where the injury occurs. This test could be used on the playing field to help coaches, trainers, and athletic directors make decisions about whether the child can get back in the game, she said. The researchers plan to do more study to validate their results in a larger group of children, and they hope a test will be available within the next five years.

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