Even though pop culture generally treats concussions as not all that serious, reality comes in to prove it wrong once again. Concussions are extremely dangerous, as they come as a result of hits to the head and can lead to serious and permanent brain injury and even death. But they are surprisingly difficult to identify.
Or at least they were until recently, as a team of researchers from Florida developed a new blood test that can easily identify concussions. Despite being received with initial skepticism, the test proved to be around 95 percent accurate in identifying mild to moderate concussions, becoming a tool that could potentially save a great many lives.
The biggest issue with identifying concussions so far was that symptoms don’t really show up until days after the initial hit. And by then it could already be too late for some concussed individuals, like for athletes going back into the field and risking permanent brain damage or death with the subsequent blow to the head.
Another issue posed by identifying concussions is again related to how late the symptoms manifest, but also to children. Even if some of the symptoms start manifesting soon after the initial hit (which they sometimes do), it’s difficult for children to explain them, and so they are often misdiagnosed.
So, the preferred way to detect if a concussion actually took place is via a CT scan. However, despite being very precise at identifying brain lesions, these machines generate quite enough radiation, which isn’t all that good for children. Plus, the fees aren’t that easily supported by everybody.
According to Dr. Linda Papa, lead author of the study and Orlando Health emergency medicine physician,
This could ultimately change the way we diagnose concussions, not only in children, but in anyone who sustains a head injury. We have so many diagnostic blood tests for different parts of the body, like the heart, liver and kidneys, but there’s never been a reliable blood test to identify trauma in the brain. We think this test could change that.
Indeed, the new test was proven 94 to 97 percent accurate in identifying concussions in patients of all ages. It revolves around the detection of a certain protein that is released into the blood stream only after sustaining a serious enough injury to the head. This protein is present in the bloodstream for up to a week after a serious brain injury.
GFAP, or glial fibrillary acidic protein surrounds neurons in the brain and are released into the bloodstream only if they pass the brain-blood barrier via a serious hit to the head. Plus, the blood test is far cheaper and more secure than any current way of detecting a concussion.
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