New Test Could Save Kids With Concussions

Blood test is accurate 94% of the time, study says
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 9, 2015 7:00 PM CST
Updated Nov 9, 2015 7:30 PM CST
In this photo taken July 5, 2015, children compete for the ball as they play football in a playground in one of the yards between tower blocks in Moscow.   (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
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(Newser) – Imagine a mobile device that not only identifies concussions in children but tells you how bad they are. Well, researchers say a new blood test has them closer to that ideal and diagnoses child concussions with 94% accuracy, UPI reports. "This simple blood test was nearly as accurate as a state-of-the-art CT scan," says Linda Papa, an emergency medicine physician behind a new study. She had researchers look at 257 children, 197 of whom had suffered blunt trauma to the head, and compare CT scans in 152 of the kids to their blood test results. Not only were the tests reliable, they identified the severity of the injury by measuring a biomarker released when brain cells are injured. That biomarker, called glial fibrillary acidic protein, exists around the brain's neurons.

Current concussion tests can only spot symptoms like blurred vision, headaches, and vomiting, which don't tell you if the injury's a bad one, according to a press release. CT scans are more informative but also leak radiation, which Papa says children "are a lot more sensitive to." So she wants to create a scientific field test "to help the coaches ... make a decision then and there about whether the child should go back to play." Her dream is to turn the blood test into a mobile device like ones diabetics use; researchers say there might be a commercially available version within five years. "This could ultimately change the way we diagnose concussions, not only in children, but in anyone who sustains a head injury," says Papa. As it stands, hospitals treat almost 250,000 children annually for traumatic brain injury, which amounts to almost 700 kids per day. (The brain disease rate of dead NFL players is pretty shocking.)

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