Researchers in the U.S. have developed a blood test that could help clinicians detect abusive head trauma in infants, sometimes referred to as shaken baby syndrome.

The blood test can be used to detect acute intracranial hemorrhage, or bleeding of the brain, caused by abusive head trauma, reports the study, published in JAMA Pediatrics.

In 30 percent of cases, abusive head trauma is missed due to inaccurate information from families or guardians, or nonspecific symptoms such as vomiting or fussiness in infants.

The more quickly a child is diagnosed and treated, the less likely they are to suffer serious consequences such as permanent brain damage or learning difficulties.

The test, designed for young infants, uses a tiny amount of blood. It is based on a formula combining three biomarkers and a measure of levels of hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen in the blood.

Evaluated in 599 infants, the scientists' "BIBIS" ("Biomarkers for Infant Brain Injury Score") formula correctly detected intracranial hemorrhage caused by abusive head trauma in approximately 90 percent of cases, compared to a rate of around 70 percent for clinical judgment, the study reports.

The blood test could become a valuable complementary tool in the process of establishing a clinical diagnosis -- particularly in cases where symptoms are unclear -- and in helping medical practitioners decide whether brain imaging is necessary to locate the hemorrhage.