people who get a concussion seem to regain normal brain
function within a month or two at most. But doctors have no
way to predict which patients are in that group and which will
suffer long-term cognitive problems.
from the University of Pennsylvania and Baylor College of
Medicine seeks to solve that riddle with a simple blood test.
In a new
study in the journal Frontiers in Neurology, the team reported
that a protein called SNTF is a promising indicator of which
patients with concussions are likely to experience chronic
tested the brain processing speed of 13 concussed patients
soon after their injury and also measured the amount of SNTF
in their blood. The cognitive test was administered again
three months later.
five patients with elevated levels of the protein, none showed
improvements in processing speed three months later. But in
six of eight patients in whom the protein was not detected
just after injury, scores on the brain test did improve three
researchers also reported that patients with elevated levels
of the protein were more likely to have abnormal brain scans.
The patients underwent a special kind of MRI.
author Robert Siman, a neurosurgery professor at Pennís
Perelman School of Medicine, warned that while the findings
were statistically significant, the study was small and needs
follow-up. "We donít have a way to identify at an early
and potentially treatable stage those concussed individuals
who are not going to get better," he said.
study also included a set of 13 patients with a broken bone or
other orthopedic injury. Levels of the protein were elevated
in the blood of three of those patients, suggesting that they
may have suffered an undiagnosed concussion, said study author
and Penn professor Douglas H. Smith.
highlights the important thing, that concussion is really
poorly diagnosed and defined," said Smith, director of
Pennís Center for Brain Injury and Repair.
someone goes to the ER with symptoms of a concussion but no
internal bleeding, they are examined and sent home. It is up
to the patient and family to follow up with a doctor.
Penn-Baylor blood test holds up in larger studies, it would
help doctors determine who needs follow-up care, Smith said.
"It would be crucially important to weed out those who
really need the call-back."
test also would help researchers test drugs and other
therapies for concussions, he said. Now it is hard to tell if
drugs are helping, since most people get better anyway.
of protein in the blood test was chosen because past studies
had shown it was secreted by dying brain cells.
concussion patients were defined as having suffered a
"mild" traumatic brain injury, meaning that a CT
scan did not reveal internal bleeding. But Smith dislikes the
term mild, since some of the patientsí cognitive symptoms
were anything but.