A New Blood Test Helps Identify Patients Who Are Most Likely to Have Prolonged Concussion Symptoms

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A New Blood Test Helps Identify Patients Who Are Most Likely to Have Prolonged Concussion Symptoms

New research (two studies) published July 8 in Neurology showed that blood tests for Nfl (Serum neurofilament light) predicted the duration of concussion symptoms. It outperformed the other blood tests in distinguishing mild, moderate and severe TBI (traumatic brain injury up to 5 years after injury.

"In both of our studies, the same idea came through: neurofilament light chain shows great promise as a biomarker in the blood," study author Pashtun Shahim, MD, PhD, of the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, said in a statement.

"This is notable because the test may help us identify people whose concussions might give them debilitating symptoms for years after the injury. And that may help doctors treat their patients more specifically for the type of concussion they have," he added.

"Currently, there is no validated biomarker that can reliably detect the subtle signs of brain injury months to years after a traumatic brain injury," Shahim pointed out. "Our study shows that the amount of serum NfL was higher even at 5 years after a single traumatic brain injury, while the other proteins we measured in this study, although detectable in blood, were not high enough to distinguish patients from controls."

This blood based biomarker can predict the recovery in many groups of people including professional athletes with acute or chronic TBI. The Nfl chain breaks away from neurons in the brain and collect sin cerebral and spinal fluid. The research scientist confirmed that the Nfl chain also is collected in the blood of the concussion victims in similar concentrations as in the brain and spine and that the levels can be used to predict recovery throughout all stages of TBI.

The study specifically examined pro hockey players in Sweden who had sustained sports related concussion and compared them to hockey players without concussions, and hockey players with persistent post-concussion symptoms, non-athletes controls, and clinic based patients at the National Institutes for Health Clinical Center who are healthy, or with acute, subacute, and chronic TBI injuries.

The results showed that the presents of NFL chains in the blood:

1.       Suggested that testing the blood for Nfl could be used to detect concussion

2.       Demonstrated a strong diagnostic ability for sports-related concussions identifying players with concussion, and clinic-based patients with mil, moderate and severe TBI. There is a significant need for an easy blood test to determine at the time of injury whether a person has a concussion or sign of TBI.

3.       It allowed the identification and differentiation of those players who were able to return to play after 10 days versus those that were forced to retire due to post concussion syndrome. There is currently a need for a diagnostic test which allows clinicians to determine when athletes can safely return to play, work, or daily activities.

According to the NIH website report,

Traumatic brain injury is a major leading cause of death and disability in the United States with more than 2.87 million emergency department visits, hospitalizations and deaths annually. While majority of all traumatic brain injuries are classified as mild (also known as a concussion), it remains difficult to diagnose this condition. There are a wide range of variable behavioral and observational tests to help determine a patient’s injuries but most of these tests rely on the patient to self-report signs and symptoms. Also, imaging has limitations with detecting micro-structural injuries in the brain.

 

 

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