(CN) – A Minneapolis hospital announced it will team up with the University of Minnesota for what it called “the nation’s largest study of concussions and traumatic brain injuries.”
Researchers at Hennepin County Medical Center will select hundreds of patients suffering from mild to severe brain injuries to participate in the study.
“Using eye tracking, blood-based biomarkers, imaging, and cognitive measures, we hope to develop a new standard approach for classifying brain injuries,” the hospital stated.
Dr. Uzma Samadani, a brain surgeon at HCMC, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that some concussions go undetected because the patient suffered other injuries.
“They broke their leg and they hit their head, and they got so focused on fixing their broken leg that they didn’t think about the component of brain injury,” she said.
Samadani told the newspaper that the current classifications of concussions – mild, moderate and severe – are too vague to be helpful in treatment.
Patients who participate in the study will receive MRI , eye and blood tests designed to provide doctors with additional information on brain injuries.
The study will map the position of patients’ pupils while they watch a video screen.
“Data have shown a connection between brain injury and abnormal eye movements,” Samadani said. “With new high-resolution cameras, we can detect subtle differences in movement much more easily and objectively than in the past.”
Another partner in the study is Abbott, a pharmaceutical device manufacturer. Its handheld i-STAT device will search for blood-based biomarkers.
“When someone experiences a head injury like a concussion, specific protein biomarkers will be found in the blood,” said Dr. Beth McQuiston, Abbott’s medical director of diagnostics. “If the protein levels are higher than normal, that may show a brain injury has occurred and serve as a warning bell that further evaluation is needed.”
MRI tests will also be used to detect injuries that a CAT scan could miss.
“Imaging tells us what the brain looks like, eye tracking tells us how well it’s working and blood-based biomarkers can tell us the nature of the damage,” said HCMC neurosurgery chief Thomas Bergman. “When we put all of this information together, we will have a better understanding about brain injury that will help us treat patients now and in the future.”
Researchers will screen 9,000 patients of all ages, enrolling 1,000 of them in the study for up to one year.
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