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In the past doctors have had to rely on visual signs to diagnose brain injury by performing CT scans on the brain. CT scans can only detect bleeding on the brain so until now there has been no way to detect damage to brain cells that have occurred without bleeding.
The effects of brain injury can vary greatly from mild headaches which quickly clear up to ongoing memory, concentration and mood problems. If nothing has shown up on a CT scan then patients have little explanation for their symptoms which are having a hugely detrimental effect on their lives.
Dr Korley of the John Hopkins University School of Medicine found that by testing proteins in the blood in the first 24 hours of injury you could better predict the outcome and recovery period for traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). He tested 300 TBI patients and 150 patients without brain injury and then followed the progress of the TBI patients for 6 months. He found that the protein BDNF was significantly lower in patients who had suffered a TBI than in those who had not. The more severe the brain injury then the lower the BDNF levels were. Those who had suffered a brain injury but were almost symptom free after 6 months had higher levels of BDNF than those who were still suffering the effects of a brain injury.
This discovery is important as it can give an indication of the severity of symptoms that the patient will suffer and whether they will require rehabilitation with a neurologist or whether their symptoms will clear up on their own. Whereas previously if they had no bleed on the CT scan they would have been sent home with a diagnosis of no injury at all.
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