A blood test that can help predict the seriousness of a head injury and detect the status of the blood-brain barrier is a step closer to reality, according to two recently published studies involving University of Rochester Medical Center researchers.
News stories about tragic head injuries from the death of actress Natasha Richardson to brain-injured Iraq war soldiers and young athletes certainly underscore the need for a simpler, faster, accurate screening tool, said brain injury expert Jeffrey Bazarian, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of Emergency Medicine, Neurology and Neurosurgery at URMC, and a co-author on both studies.
The S-100B blood test recently cleared a significant hurdle when a panel of national experts, including Bazarian, agreed for the first time that it could be a useful tool for patients with a mild injury, allowing them to safely avoid a CT scan.
Previous studies have shown the S-100B serum protein biomarker to increase rapidly after an injury. If measured within four hours of the injury, the S-100B test accurately predicts which head injury patients will have a traumatic abnormality such as hemorrhage or skull fracture on a head CT scan. It takes about 20 minutes to get results and could spare many patients unnecessary radiation exposure.
Physicians at six Emergency Departments in upstate New York, including the ED at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, this year will continue to study the accuracy of the test among 1,500 patients. Scientists plan to use the data to apply for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.
"The S-100B blood test is an important part of the tool set we need to improve our treatment of patients with brain injuries," Bazarian said. "It's not the ultimate diagnostic test, but it may make things easier for patients, and it will help doctors sort through difficult clinical decisions."
The test is used routinely in 16 European countries as a screening de
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University of Rochester Medical Center