Safar Center Associate Director Dr. Rachel Berger, and a team of colleagues from UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh have developed a serum-based blood test to detect abusive head trauma (AHT) in infants, and have recently published an exciting study in JAMA Pediatrics that analyzes its potential.

Despite the fact that AHT is the leading cause of death from TBI in infants, 30% of cases are misdiagnosed because the infant presents with nonspecific symptoms or an accurate history is lacking. Missed diagnoses can lead to repeated injury and death. In her paper, Dr. Berger and her team, in collaboration with a Canadian molecular diagnostics company, Alexa, tested a sensitive serum biomarker panel in nearly 600 infants, and reported that it showed great promise in identifying infants with an intracranial hemorrhage.

This test needs to be validated in a clinical practice setting and receive regulatory approval, but if accomplished, would be the first of its kind for clinical utility in this important setting. This test would, of course not make the diagnosis of abusive head trauma, but rather, point to the brain, indicating the need for an imaging study and further evaluation.

Dr. Berger’s study has garnered considerable coverage by the news media, and social media attention, reflecting its importance to the field.