An observational study at a teaching hospital in France recently found that measuring the levels of a protein called S100-B could help screen people for minor brain injuries. Typically, computed tomography (CT) scans can be used to detect brain injuries, but the price, exposure to radiation, and underwhelming detection skills (CT scans appear to detect “clinically relevant lesions” in less than 10% of cases) sometimes make CT scans a less desirable tool when it comes to assessing people for brain injuries.
After a brain injury, S100-B is released into the circulatory system and can sometimes indicate how severe an injury is based on how much of the protein is present in the blood. The study in France looked at the CT scans and S100-B levels of 1,560 people with minor brain injuries and found that the CT scan revealed brain lesions in only 7% of these individuals. However, the rest of the participants in the study did have measurable levels of S100-B, even though their CT scans did not show any visible brain lesions. As a result, the researchers believe that S100-B could be a valuable screening tool to assess people who have recently experienced a minor brain trauma.
The news that S100-B could be used as a more accurate screening tool is exciting because one of the problems with minor brain injuries is that they’re not always easily detectable, and, as a result, can go untreated. Additionally, for people who are at a greater risk of brain injury due to repeated exposure to minor head traumas (e.g., certain athletes and military members in combat zones), the use of the S100-B protein could be a good way to assess these individuals for brain trauma following an injury. Identifying minor brain injuries in these groups of people immediately following an injury could help keep them out of harm’s way and protect them from experiencing a second injury, which can result in even more serious brain trauma.
It’s important to remember that a blow to the head that seems like nothing could end up being a pretty big something. A CNN story published a couple years back warned about the devious nature of brain injuries and reminds us that even though a person may appear to be completely “with it” after a seemingly little bump or tumble, they may later start to experience symptoms of a more serious nature. Of course, undetected brain injuries can range in severity, but it’s important for people to make sure they get themselves checked out, even if they have their full wits about them and the possibility of a brain injury seems remote. With the help of S100-B, an even greater number of these brain injuries, particularly the minor ones, may be more easily detectable.