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New Testing Shows Promise for Treatment of Traumatic Brain Injuries

February 17th, 2021

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a common injury, caused by a bump or blow to the head that disrupts the normal functioning of the brain. TBIs can range from mild concussions to severe head injuries. Long-term effects of TBI can include problems with memory, thinking, movement, vison, and hearing. In some cases, TBIs also cause emotional problems such as personality changes and depression. 

Given the potential for negative consequences resulting from TBIs, optimizing treatment of these injuries in emergency care is crucial to minimizing long term damage. In a promising study recently published in the Journal of Neurotrauma, a team led by David Okonkwo MD found that a blood test can help assess the severity of traumatic brain injury in emergency settings.

The study enrolled 1,497 people at 18 trauma centers nationwide over four years. The study found that measuring levels of a protein called glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) with a rapid blood test can help determine the severity of a brain injury within minutes, which in turn helps guide the most appropriate course of treatment. Based on these promising preliminary results, further development of an existing testing device to include GFAP levels is under consideration, with the hope of making such testing more widely available to trauma patients.

“This would eliminate guesswork in diagnosing TBIs and learn whether a person needs further treatment,” said Dr. Okonkwo. “Whether you’re testing a soldier injured in combat or testing a patient in a small rural hospital with limited resources, health care providers could have critical information they need—in minutes—to treat each patient’s brain injury.”

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