A new medical test may help identify victims of shaken baby syndrome. Researchers at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Medical School say they’ve developed a blood test that could help detect abusive head trauma in infants.
Using stored samples from a data bank, they arrived at a formula, called the Biomarkers for Infant Brain Injury Score, for discriminating between infants with and without intracranial hemorrhage or brain bleeding.
Researchers say the test correctly detected shaken baby syndrome 90 percent of the time, versus about 70 percent , for clinical judgment. Larger studies are needed before the test can be approved.
“Abusive head trauma (AHT) is the leading cause of death from traumatic brain injury in infants and the leading cause of death from physical abuse in the United States,” said senior author Rachel Berger, M.D., M.P.H. chief of the Child Advocacy Center at Children’s Hospital and professor of pediatrics at the Pitt School of Medicine.
However, approximately 30 percent of AHT diagnoses are missed when caretakers provide inaccurate histories or when infants have nonspecific symptoms such as vomiting or fussiness. Missed diagnoses can be catastrophic as AHT can lead to permanent brain damage and even death.