Toronto: Scientists have developed a new blood test that identifies with over 90 per cent accuracy whether an adolescent athlete has suffered a concussion or
Diagnosis of a clinically significant concussion, or a mild traumatic brain injury, can be difficult as it currently relies on a combination of patient symptom assessment and clinician judgement. Equally problematic are the decisions to stop play or activities, or when patients who have suffered a concussion can safely return to normal activities without risking further injury.
Researchers from Children's Health Research Institute and Western University in Canada, have demonstrated that a blood test can now accurately diagnose a concussion using a form of blood profiling known as metabolomics. In the relatively inexpensive test, blood is drawn from an individual that may have suffered a concussion as the result of a sudden blow to the head (or from transmitted forces from a sudden blow to the body) within 72 hours of the incident.
The scientists measure a panel of metabolites - small molecules that are the products of the body's metabolism - in the blood to search for distinct patterns that indicate a concussion has occurred. "This novel approach, to use blood testing of metabolites as a diagnostic tool for concussions, was exploratory and we were extremely pleased with the robustness of our initial results," said Douglas Fraser from Children's Hospital, who led the study with his co-investigator Mark Daley, a professor at Western University.
"We looked at a host of patterns and it appears that those who suffered a concussion have a very different pattern than those who have not had a concussion," Fraser said. In this latest successful attempt, the researchers took a
different approach and investigated a full spectrum of 174 metabolites.
"We looked at all of these metabolites in concussed male adolescent patients and in non-concussed male adolescent patients and it turns out that the spectrum is really different," said Daley. "There is no one metabolite that we can put a finger on but when we looked at all of them, those profiles are different enough that we could easily distinguish concussed patients from non-concussed," said Daley.
In fact, with fine tuning we can now look at sets of as few as 20-40 specific metabolites and maintain the diagnostic accuracy level of the test over 90 per cent," said Daley. Concussion is a major public health concern, often
resulting in significant acute symptoms and in some individuals, long-term neurological dysfunction. The study was published in the journal Metabolomics.