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Serum Neurofilament Light May Help Assess Concussion, TBI

Last Updated: July 09, 2020.

Serum neurofilament light may be a biomarker for acute and repetitive sports-related concussion and traumatic brain injury, according to a study published online July 8 in Neurology.

THURSDAY, July 9, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Serum neurofilament light (NfL) may be a biomarker for acute and repetitive sports-related concussion and traumatic brain injury (TBI), according to a study published online July 8 in Neurology.

For the study, Pashtun Shahim, M.D., Ph.D., from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and colleagues enrolled participants in Sweden and the United States between 2011 and 2019. The Swedish cohort included 45 hockey players with acute concussion, 31 with repetitive concussion with persistent postconcussive symptoms (PCS) assessed with paired cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and serum, 28 preseason controls, and 14 nonathletic controls. The U.S. clinic-based cohort included 162 participants with TBI and 68 controls.

The researchers found that CSF and serum NfL were correlated in athletes with paired specimens. CSF and serum NfL could differentiate players with PCS for more than one year versus PCS for one year or less (area under the receiver operating characteristic curve [AUROC], 0.81 and 0.80, respectively). For individuals with PCS for more than one year versus preseason controls, the AUROC was 0.97. In the clinic-based cohort, patients with mild versus moderate versus severe TBI could be differentiated with NfL at enrollment. Over the course of five years, serum NfL decreased but remained significantly elevated relative to controls. There were correlations for serum NfL with measures of functional outcome, magnetic resonance imaging brain atrophy, and diffusion tensor imaging estimates of traumatic axial injury.

"In both of our studies, the same idea came through: Neurofilament light chain shows great promise as a biomarker in the blood," Shahim said in a statement.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the biopharmaceutical industry.

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