Diagnostic Indicators for Traumatic Brain Injury

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In November of 2011, Dr. Linda Papa, an emergency medicine physician, published a study she completed on utilizing lab testing to screen patients for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).  Dr. Papa discovered that patients with TBI had a significantly higher amount of an acidic protein in their blood than those without TBI. The protein at issue is called glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP).  

The study included 307 adult patients who presented with mild and moderate TBI symptoms at 3 different level 1 emergency department / trauma centers. Participants were enrolled from the emergency department and had blood samples collected within 4 hours of injury. All received CT scans. Control groups included patients with orthopedic trauma or motor vehicle trauma without head injury, and people without injury recruited from a newspaper ad.

According to the study the blood samples were drawn an average of 2.7 hours after injury. The GFAP biomarker first appeared in the serum within an hour, increased for a period of 3-4 hours, and then leveled off. The results indicated that early elevations of GFAP can be a potentially useful clinical tool in assessing severity of brain injuries and assist in determining whether to image patients, admit or discharge patients, or refer the patient for neurosurgical consultation.

The abstract of Dr. Papa’s study titled “Elevated levels of serum glial fibrillary acidic protein breakdown products in mild and moderate traumatic brain injury are associated with intracranial lesions and neurosurgical intervention”  can be found by clicking here.

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