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A blood test for concussions

Taking a simple blood test to determine if one has suffered a concussion holds real promise for both treatment and prevention.

A barely bruised brain can send out molecular SOS signals in the blood for days after an injury, researchers report this week in JAMA Neurology.

The finding suggests that new blood tests, already in development to detect those signals, may be able to identify even the mildest concussions well after a knock to the head.

“It is common for patients who have had a concussion or mild [traumatic brain injury] not to seek immediate medical attention,” the authors write. Kids, in particular, might have delayed or mild symptoms and go without treatment right away. Letting a concussion go undiagnosed may mean returning to work or school too soon, thwarting the brain’s efforts to heal. This can lead to dizziness, memory loss, depression, and headaches. And if a patient returns to play or sports too quickly, further hits to the head could lead to more severe or even permanent damage.

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Concussions have always be a little hard to diagnose and even harder to determine when a patient is back to normal. But using a brain protein that leaks into the blood following a concussion amy change this.

Glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) easily passes the blood-brain barrier following injury. This study determined that GFAP was detectable in the bood of patients that were diagnosed with a concussion but not in those who had not. 

This could make dealing with concussions so much easier, at all levels.

Image: Keith Allison

3 thoughts on “A blood test for concussions

  1. Any idea if this would be a small device like those who have diabetes and it just pricks their finger? Or would this need a large vial of blood like for major tests? If they can make a small device that only tests for GFAP, that would be quite extraordinary. Something any Athletic Trainer/ Doctor could have on the sideline and get a quick result.

    1. I definitely think this is some amazing work being done, especially being a collegiate athlete and the concussions I’ve had on the field, this could really be useful

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