Canadian scientists have developed a new blood test which is claimed to identify with greater than 90% certainty whether or not an adolescent athlete has suffered a concussion.
Scientists from the Children´s Health Research Institute, part of Lawson Health Research Institute, and Western University conducted a study with adolescent male hockey players, demonstrating that a form of blood profiling known as metabolomics can accurately diagnose a concussion.
Diagnosis of a clinically significant concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury, can be difficult as existing techniques rely 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, Lawson said.
In the new 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.
The research was conducted by Dr Douglas Fraser, a physician in the Paediatric Critical Care Unit at Children´s Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre, together with his co-investigator Mark Daley, a professor in the Departments of Computer Science, Biology and Statistics & Actuarial Sciences at Western University.
“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,” commented Dr Fraser. “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.”
The findings of the study have been published in the international journal Metabolomics.