Each year, about 1.7 million Americans develop a new traumatic brain injury (TBI). In many cases, diagnosing these injuries can be a complicated, difficult process, as it can take weeks or even months to determine the severity of a TBI and, consequently, figure out the best treatments for it.
In the near future, however, this may no longer be a problem, as researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have recently published a study finding that a simple blood test may be sufficient to diagnose the severity of TBIs.
A Closer Look at this Study & Its Findings
Focusing on more than 500 patients, this study investigated whether blood test results could indicate the severity of individuals’ brain injuries by measuring the levels of a few proteins that researchers suspected would serve as good indicators of brain damage.
Traditionally, when people seek emergency medical care for brain injuries, they are given CT scans, which can show if a brain is bleeding. However, these scans have not been effective at pinpointing brain damage that exists independent of bleeding.
So, researchers overseeing this study took a closer look at how the levels of a protein known as BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) were altered in people with brain damage (when compared to those without brain damage). What they found was that:
- Within 24 hours of a traumatic brain injury, a blood test could measure altered levels of BDNF.
- When people suffered TBIs, their BDNF levels dropped by about two-thirds, being cut from about 60 nanograms per milliliter of blood (i.e., the levels of BDNF in non-brain-damaged people) to about 20 nanograms per ml.
- In cases of severe TBIs, the BDNF levels were even more significantly reduced, dropping to about 4 nanograms per ml.
- While patients who were able to make some recovery from their brain injuries displayed corresponding increases in their BDNF levels, those who continued to experience debilitating symptoms of TBIs also continued to show lowered levels of BDNFs in their blood tests.
The correlations between BDNF levels and the severity of patients’ brain injuries could be remarkable when it comes to getting brain injured patients treatments as soon as possible, researchers have noted.
Commenting on these findings, Lead Researcher Dr. Frederick Korley explained that:
Compared to other proteins that have been measured in traumatic brain injury, BDNF does a much better job of predicting outcomes…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.
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Contact a Mount Vernon Personal Injury Attorney at the Law Firm of Hassakis & Hassakis, P.C.
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