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Research: Blood test could detect TBI in minutes

| Sep 21, 2020 | Traumatic Brain Injury

Two of the occupations with the largest number of workplace injuries in the Milwaukee area are in the transportation and construction industries. Construction workers and people who drive for a living (truckers, cabbies, bus drivers, etc.) are both at risk of sustaining traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the course of their work.

Drivers are at risk of TBI in motor vehicle crashes, while construction workers often sustain head injuries in falls from roofs, ladders, scaffolding or other heights.

Rapid diagnosis improves recovery

One of the most important factors in TBI diagnosis, treatment and recovery is time. The sooner the injury is diagnosed and treated appropriately, the greater the chances for a full recovery.

Research recently published in the Journal of Neurotrauma states that “a blood protein test could detect the severity of head trauma in under 15 minutes.”

According to study author David Okonkwo, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Neurotrauma Clinical Trials Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, a point-of-care testing device already in use (called the i-STAT) would help health care providers assess the extent of TBI in minutes, rather than hours or days.

No more guesses

“This would eliminate guesswork in diagnosing TBIs,” Okonkwo said, adding that the device would improve TBI treatment everywhere from battlefields to rural hospitals, and everywhere in between.

Scientists have studied blood tests involving glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), which is released into the bloodstream in response to certain injuries (including TBI).

The recent study shows that GFAP consistently functions as a TBI marker.

A familiar device

Okonkwo noted that the iSTAT is “already is in widespread use in hospitals, doctors’ offices and urgent care facilities.”

With a simple upgrade, the devices can be used to quickly detect TBI and enable treatment to begin more rapidly.

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