Blood test taken within 24 hours of head injury can predict whether a person will die
Blood tests within 24 hours of a head injury can predict whether a person will die or become severely disabled – and can help the doctor make life-saving treatment decisions
- A simple blood test using a sample collected within 24 hours of a traumatic brain injury can determine a patient’s chance of survival, new study finds
- Researchers found that levels of GFAP and UCH-L1 in a person’s blood correlated with injury severity
- Learning early that a person has a very significant head injury can help trauma doctors act faster to give them life-saving treatment
- The CDC reports that 50,000 Americans die each year from a traumatic brain injury, and about 100,000 suffer from severe disabilities
A groundbreaking new blood test can quickly tell doctors that a patient is at risk of death or suffering from serious complications from a head injury — and as a result, they can act more quickly in certain high-risk cases to save a life that they might not have otherwise.
A joint research team from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), University of Pennsylvania and University of Michigan found they could test for two specific biomarkers that indicate the risk of severe disability or death from head injury in just minutes. portable blood analyzers.
By doing this, doctors can get a snapshot of the seriousness of a case they’re dealing with. This makes it possible to act more quickly in providing more significant medical treatment – which doctors may be late if they don’t initially realize the true extent of a person’s injury.
These findings could be very valuable, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of the leading causes of death and disability among American youth. A total of 50,000 Americans die of a TBI each year and nearly 100,000 suffer from long-term disability.
Researchers have found that a simple blood test looking for two proteins can determine the chance of death or serious disability from a head injury (file photo)
“We believe this tool can encourage clinicians to be more aggressive in their decisions to initiate or continue life-saving treatment,” said Dr. Geoffrey Manley, study co-author and vice chair of neurosurgery at USCF in a statement.
Researchers, who published their findings Wednesday in the Lancet, are using the biomarkers GFAP and UCH-L1 as the centerpiece of their testing.
Levels of both proteins in a person’s blood after a TBI can indicate the severity of an injury and determine the risk of the worst possible outcomes.
They collected data from 1,696 patients who presented to a medical facility with a TBI and had a blood sample taken.
Each sample was rated on a scale of one to ten for the most likely medical outcome. The most serious cases likely to result in death were placed in category one. Those placed in category eight were likely able to continue their lives after injury with few complications.
dr. Geoffrey Manley (pictured), vice chair of neurology at UCSF, said the test is both diagnostic and prognostic
Of the sample, seven percent of the patients had died as a result of their injury. Another 14 percent had an “unfavorable outcome” that placed them between categories two and four.
These include a person who is alive but in a vegetative state, or has significant disability as a result of the injury.
The test developed by the researchers was highly effective at determining whether a patient would die, with nearly 90 percent accuracy.
It was also able to predict a patient’s risk of severe disability with about 85 percent accuracy.
As the severity of the injury learned, so did its accuracy, falling into the 60 percent range of predicting whether a person would make a full recovery or live with a mild disability.
Manley described the process as “both diagnostic and prognostic,” not just telling doctors what’s wrong now, but also what might go wrong in the near future.
There are already some ways to measure brain damage after a traumatic injury, but it’s more efficient to do this with a quick blood test.
At this point, a patient needs to have an MRI and CT scan to determine the true extent of their injury. However, not all medical facilities have access to these devices and there can also be long wait times to use them.
These findings may be important for medical professionals in the future. The CDC estimates that about 1.5 million Americans get a TBI each year.
50,000 of that group will die. Somewhere between 80,000 and 90,000 will experience long-term disability. About 230,000 will be hospitalized and survive their injury.