Abbott Blood Test Can Detect Concussions that CT Scans Missed, Study Shows


It is estimated that nearly 5 million people visit the emergency room each year for a suspected concussion. However, about half of all concussions go undetected with current standard-of-care analysis, including CT scans.

Now though, one of the largest concussion studies ever conducted found that a new blood test developed by Abbott was able to detect a protein in the blood that confirmed a concussion, even if the result of the CT scan came back negative. The study, which was published in Lancet Neurology, found that 64% of people with the highest levels of a protein, the brain-specific glial fibrillary acidic protein found in the blood were confirmed to have brain injury through an MRI scan. The results of the study could revolutionize concussion care as the blood test can provide results within 15 minutes. That could make the Abbott blood test a point-of-care for suspected concussions so physicians can ensure that a patient’s care is properly managed.

This morning, Illinois-based Abbott announced findings from the Transforming Research and Clinical Knowledge in Traumatic Brain Injury (TRACK-TBI) study that showed how its blood test technology could fill in the gap when it comes to undiagnosed concussions. Geoffrey T. Manley, principal investigator of the study and a neurosurgeon at the University of California at San Francisco, said Abbott’s research “opens up the next chapter” for how concussions will be evaluated. Abbott’s test measures specific proteins, such as GFAP, that are released from the brain when it's been injured.

Click to sign up for job alerts

“Having these sensitive tools could provide physicians more real-time, objective information and improve the accuracy of detecting TBI (traumatic brain injury). This research shows that blood tests have the potential to help physicians triage patients suspected of brain injury quickly and accurately,” Manley said in a statement.

To currently detect brain injuries, doctors conduct a physical examination, as well as a series of screening questions for cognitive and neurological symptoms, Abbott said. Once those are complete, many times doctors will order a CT scan to confirm the diagnosis. However, the TRACK-TBI study found that CT scans do not always confirm a concussion or other injuries that would show bleeding or swelling in the brain. Abbott said nearly 30% of patients with a normal CT scan showed signs of TBI when doctors ordered an MRI, an imaging technology that is more sensitive. While MRIs showed the concussions, Abbott noted that not all hospitals have these machines and the readouts can take some time to get into the doctor’s hands following the procedure. They are also more costly than CT scans and blood tests, Abbott said.

The TRACK-TBI study evaluated 450 patients admitted to the emergency department of 18 U.S. Level 1 trauma centers with a suspected TBI, who also received a negative CT scan. Researchers evaluated GFAP levels in their blood and then reviewed their MRI scans taken up to two weeks later to confirm the TBI. When looking at the people who had detectable levels of this protein, the study found that among the 90 people with the highest levels of GFAP detected, 64% were confirmed to have a TBI by the MRI scan. By contrast, for the 90 people with the lowest levels of GFAP, 8% were confirmed to have a TBI. The research showed that GFAP could be used to determine which group of people should be screened further or referred for an MRI to confirm their TBI.

Back to news