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Ask The Expert: What should we know about a new blood test for concussions?

What should we know about a new blood test for concussions? (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - The FDA has approved a new blood test that can be used following a head injury, but local doctors have a word of caution about using it to measure concussions in kids.

The Sports Medicine team at Saint Elizabeth Healthcare said that they recently attended a conference where the approval of the blood test by the Food and Drug Administration was discussed.

They say it's approved for use in adults.

“There are two proteins that the test measures, UCHL1 and G-PAP, which are proteins that are released from the brain and into the brain when there's a significant brain injury,” said Dr. James Hahn.

Dr. Hahn said that the new test is a blood test which could be taken after a head injury. It measures what's called “biomarkers” in the blood. It is not something that he says he would recommend following a suspected concussion when a child might be sitting on the sidelines.

“This is absolutely not a concussion test, it is more of a brain bleed test, so the test cannot rule out or rule in concussion. What it does is a better job of determining whether we need a cat scan in an emergency setting, for a more significant injury like a brain bleed,” said Dr. Hahn.

Dr. Hahn and Dr. Mike Miller are part of a sports medicine team which cares for patients where they perform.

Dr. Miller points out that while he can often see symptoms of other injuries, such as lower back pain that gradually affects patients over time, when it comes to concussions, you can’t “see” them.

Dr. Miller says that while tests that measure biomarkers in the body such as these proteins may be helpful in the future, it’s not possible currently.

“We are not there yet, but I think that the concept of having a blood test to help us with the diagnosis or help track progress, I think that's real, I believe in my heart someday, we're gonna have some form of a blood test that helps us, but we're not there yet,” said Dr. Miller.

“The old adage of when in doubt sit them out still applies, so if there is any concern for concussion the best thing you can do is pull them from the competition and have them evaluated by someone who specializes in concussion diagnosis and management,” said Dr. Hahn.

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