An injury to the brain is one of the most concerning injuries a person can have because the brain is the control center for the body controlling all other organs and functions. Unfortunately, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are surprisingly common injuries. According to the CDC statistics, a simple fall is the leading cause of TBIs accounting for 40 percent of all concussions and other injuries to the brain. However, among children and the elderly, falls cause an even greater percentage of TBIs accounting for 55 percent of injuries for children aged zero to 14 years and 81 percent of brain injuries in adults and seniors aged 65 years or older. Perhaps even more, unfortunately, falls are an extremely common injury that can occur in any environment.
One problem related to TBIs that occur in this manner is that the injured party will frequently delay seeking medical care in the belief that the injury is not that serious or that it will resolve on its own. However, after a few days where symptoms do not improve, the individual may soon seek a doctor’s opinion at a local medical office or at the ER. Unfortunately, there is no easy test to diagnose the presence of a TBI. This means that the injured individual must often decide between undergoing a potentially costly imaging test or forego a proper diagnosis.
However, a clinical study at a hospital in Florida regarding a potential means for a TBI blood test provides hope that medical professionals will one day be able to diagnose the presence of a brain injury more quickly and easily.
Proteins in Bloodstream May Hold the Key to a New TBI Test
For patients who seek treatment due to a suspected brain injury, a simple, safe, and effective blood test that can detect the hallmarks of the condition has long been characterized as the “holy grail” of brain injury research. A test of this type would allow physicians to have clinical confirmation of a serious injury and take steps to ensure that the individual receives treatment for the condition. Similarly, individuals who did not suffer a brain injury could receive confirmation and the peace of mind that they did not suffer a serious injury to their brain.
The test is premised on the presence of certain proteins in the bloodstream. Previous research had suggested that following a brain injury two proteins known as GFAP and UCH-L1 could breach the blood-brain barrier and enter the bloodstream.
The current study took blood samples from nearly 600 patients who came to the Orlando Regional Medical Center. The samples were taken beginning at four hours after the injury and continued for seven days. The study found that UCH-L1 levels in the blood rose quickly after a brain injury, but fell within approximately two days. Levels of GFAP remained detectable in the blood for up to a week after the injury. In concord with previous research, the study seemed to find that those who had suffered only a minor bump or bruise could have some level of proteins in their bloodstream, but those who had suffered a concussion or other serious TBI were more likely to have much higher levels.
Potential Applications of the TBI Test in Development
While scientists caution that there is still a great deal of work still to be completed, the study is promising. First, it appears to have the ability to determine whether a brain injury has occurred in a car crash, during a falling, during a sporting event, or in any other circumstances. Second, it appears the level of proteins may correlate with the severity of the injury. Thus, the type and level of follow-up treatment could be guided by the results of the test. Furthermore, in the legal sphere, a test of this type has the potential to provide objective clinical data showing that a brain injury did occur and information about its severity. While an imaging test is open to some degree of interpretation, an objective number may provide greater certainty.
However, significantly more research and development must be carried out before this test can fulfill this potential. Individuals interested in reading the full study titled, Time Course and Diagnostic Accuracy of Glial and Neuronal Blood Biomarkers GFAP and UCH-L1 in a Large Cohort of Trauma Patients With and Without Mild Traumatic Brain Injury can access it on the JAMA network.
If you experienced a traumatic brain injury or think you have a failure to diagnose lawsuit, contact the lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm today.