A blood test may potentially reduce the number of computed tomography scans performed in emergency departments. According to a preliminary study published online in Annals of Emergency Medicine, patients with traumatic brain injuries had significantly higher levels of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) in their blood than patients without such injuries.
“This test has potential for determining injury severity soon after injury, helping emergency physicians make decisions about performing CT scans, seeking neurological consultations and transferring patients to other facilities,” Linda Papa, MDCM, MSc, lead study author from the Department of Emergency Medicine at Orlando Regional Medical Center in Orlando, Fla. Stated in a press release.
Every year, 1.4 million people are treated in US emergency departments for traumatic brain injury. In the military, 15% to 25% of all injuries sustained in current conflicts are to the head.
Researchers drew blood within 4 hours of injury from 307 patients. Of these patients, 108 were suspected to have traumatic brain injuries. The blood samples were tested against three different control groups, which included trauma patients without head injuries, in order to better understand how the marker is released in different situations. The researchers found a significant difference in the levels of GFAP between the patients with traumatic brain injuries and control patients. They also found that a blood level of 0.035 GFAP captured all patients with lesions on their CT scans,
“We can perform blood tests now for heart attack, and hope to be able to do the same for traumatic brain injury. It is not a substitute for all CT scans, but it could possibly rule out patients who do not need them, as well as, ensure that patients at risk get CT scans they need.” Papa stated. “Ultimately, our goal is to ensure that all patients get the most accurate screening possible in the least invasive way possible.”