When a patient arrives at the hospital after suffering a head injury, doctors have a limited amount of time to determine the severity of the damage and take appropriate action to preserve undamaged parts of the brain and lessen the effects of the trauma in whatever way possible. In order to be effective and efficient in their treatment, CT scans are used to detect internal bleeding in the brain. However, in 95 percent of patients who go to the emergency room for traumatic brain injury, CT scans appear normal, according to a WSOC TV article.
The high demand on CT scan machines combined with their ineffectiveness in determining the extent of damage in traumatic brain injuries has led researchers to explore other ways of diagnosing brain injuries and internal bleeding. Much of the damage in a brain injury comes from pressure due to pooling blood in the brain. To expedite the diagnosis process, scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York have developed a blood test to detect bleeding in the brains of head injury patients.
The blood test identifies a marker protein called S-100B that comes from a brain cell called an astrocyte, the article reported. In patients whose brains are bleeding, the marker is said to be elevated in the bloodstream. Since the blood test takes only 20 minutes, it will allow doctors to determine a course of action long before most patients would receive a CT scan. In addition, the study revealed that when the blood test comes out negative, a CT scan is not required or necessary, leaving the machine open for more immediately useful procedures.
While the test is already approved for use in Europe, human trials in US patients are still underway. With any luck, the test will be approved very soon, allowing doctors to better direct the treatment of patients arriving at the hospital or even at the scene of the accident, once portable testing units become available. To get the best results, the blood test must be administered within 3 hours of sustaining the brain injury, the WSOC TV article noted.
WSOC TV Staff. (March 12, 2010) ‘Brain Injury Blood Test.’ Retrieved on March 12, 2010 from the WSOC TV Web site: http://www.wsoctv.com/health/22811214/detail.html