For doctors, accurately diagnosing a patient’s illness or injury is only part of the job. Another factor is figuring out what the most likely outcome will be for the patient. Given the treatment options, should the patient expect to recover fully? Or is their condition more likely to be fatal?
A new study suggests that doctors can now predict the outcome of severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) with fairly good accuracy using a simple blood test. If true, this would replace the battery of tests currently required and save the patient and their family a lot of time and uncertainty.
Looking for biomarkers
The study, published in Lancet Neurology, says that doctors can screen for two protein biomarkers called GFAP and UCH-L1. These biomarkers have already been shown to be a sign of brain damage and approved for use in patients with mild TBIs to help their doctors decide if they should order a CT scan.
According to the study, this blood test can also determine with good (if not perfect) accuracy if a TBI will be fatal or cause severe disability. This would be a useful tool that would be minimally invasive to the patient and help the doctor reach a treatment plan sooner.
Needless to say, such a grim prognosis does not give the patient much chance of recovery. At best, they will spend the rest of their lives with significant physical and mental limitations. They will no longer be able to care for themselves or their children if they have any. If they survive, they may face considerable expenses to adapt their home, hire home health care aids and other necessities. If the patient does pass away, their family has lost a spouse, parent or child.