Friday, April 3, 2009

brain injury ? Go take a blood test

Blood test for critical brain injuries closer to reality

A blood test that can help predict the seriousness of head injuries is a step closer to reality, according to two recent studies.

Tragic head injuries underscore the need for a simpler, faster, accurate screening tool, said Jeffrey Bazarian, associate professor of emergency medicine and neurosurgery at the University of Rochester Medical Centre (URMC), and co-author on both studies.

The S-100B blood test recently cleared a significant hurdle when a panel of national experts, including Dr. Bazarian, agreed that it could be a useful tool for patients with brain injuries, allowing them to avoid a CT scan.

Previous studies have shown the S-100B biomarker to increase rapidly after an injury. If measured within four hours of the injury, it accurately predicts which head injury patients will have a traumatic abnormality such as hemorrhage or skull fracture on a head CT scan.

It takes about 20 minutes to get results and could spare many patients unnecessary radiation exposure. But in U.S., the screening tool is still the CT scan, which shows bleeding in the brain but does not detect more subtle injury to the brain's neurons, which can result in lasting neurological defects.

There are more than one million emergency visits annually for traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the U.S.. the majority comprising mild injuries, primarily the result of falls and motor vehicle crashes.

The challenge for doctors is to identify which of these patients has an acute, traumatic intracranial injury, something that is not always evident, and which patients can be observed and sent home.

Physicians at six emergency departments in upstate New York, including the one at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, this year will continue to study the accuracy of the test among 1,500 patients.

Scientists plan to use the data to apply for Food and Drug Administration approval, said an URMC release.


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